How White Noise Affects Productivity

When you are working in a noisy office, it can be incredibly distracting. Even though an office redesign can help through sectioning different teams or moving desks around, it may still not be fully beneficial if the environment itself is distractingly loud. Yes, open layouts can be great for communicating with colleagues, but not necessarily for concentrating. There will often be people talking loudly, music being played and other distractions which can lower the productivity of employees.

If you cannot concentrate, a great solution is listening to white noise.

But what is white noise?

White noise is noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities. A simple example of white noise is when a radio is not properly tuned or loses signal. A combination of thousands of different frequencies of sound (ranging between 20-20,000 Hz), white noise has a recognisable buzzing. Although it isn’t a sound that’s favoured by everyone, there are direct links between white noise and the improvement of productivity.

So how can white noise affect your productivity levels?

White noise can promote concentration and focus

White noise can provide soothing background noise that can help you to focus. Transporting you away from the loud noises that are happening throughout the environment you are in; the buzzing sound is simple and will allow you to maximise the attention that you are paying to the task at hand. Eliminating any distractions, your workflow won’t be disrupted by music or talking around the office.

This benefit is also relevant for students who want to focus while studying or doing homework. As a young student, it might be harder to concentrate when it comes time to study for exams, as it is often tiresome and boring. White noise offers an alternative to listening to music, drawing in their attention and directly stimulating their brains – making study feel like less of a chore.

White noise can help people to relax

No matter what industry you work in, chances are that at one time or another you have felt stressed when you were at work. If you have a hefty workload that needs to be completed on a deadline, it’s important that you find ways to concentrate and get the job done. White noise will not only allow for this concentration, but it will allow you to relax and de-stress. Whether you listen to simple white noise or natural white noises such as rain, waterfalls or forest sounds, it will make your home or work environment a more relaxed place.

White noise can help to improve your motivation

When you are motivated, whether it’s at work or home you can get work done quicker. White noise can directly help by improving your motivation. How? The soothing sounds will not only drown out any distractions as mentioned above, but it can engage your thoughts and help you to feel motivated to get the project completed or to get in a positive mindset to study.

Loud music with lyrics will have the opposite effect and can result in you becoming distracted and unmotivated in your work.

White noise can help you to be more creative

Can white noise really affect your creativity? Throughout the years, there have been a variety of studies carried out to test what the effect was of white noise on a person’s levels of creativity. One study found that “For highly creative individuals, a moderate noise level may lead to higher creative performance”[1].

Just as with any type of sound, the study also found that high levels of white noise may reduce your creativity. But the results that signify that a moderate amount of white noise can not only improve your imagination but also enhance the way that you carry out creative tasks, showcase the benefits of using it within the office or at home.

White noise can help you sleep

When you have a good night’s sleep, chances are that you will wake up the next day feeling more productive. A great way of winding down after a long day, soothing white noise sounds will help you to drift off to sleep and will distract you away from sounds that are happening outside your home.

If you are suffering from a sleeping condition such as sleep apnea, natural noises can transform the way that you sleep. Whether you listen to it through a set of headphones or out loud, it can be more comforting than complete silence.

White Noise or Pink Noise?

Although pink noise carries the same frequencies as white noise, the two are often compared due to the effect they can have. Pink noise makes higher frequencies far less powerful than that of white noise by decreasing the power density by approximately 3 decibels. This results in a smoother and less intense sound in comparison to white noise – which is why many favour pink noise over white noise when they need assistance with sleeping.

Some may favour white noise because of its ability to drown out external noises, whilst others might prefer pink noise because it is softer and smoother on the ears. The type of noise you listen to, however, is completely up to you. A good way of discovering which is better is by listening to both and comparing how they fare – when it comes time to be productive or to sleep.

How can I listen to white noise?

You can listen to white noise by purchasing a white noise machine
(of which there are many available on the market), through YouTube or through a white noise app that you can purchase on both Android and iPhone. For the latter there are a variety from Coffitivity, Brain FM and Noisli. Each has their own collections of white noise sounds, that can help to improve your productivity when you need it.

[1]Mehta. R, Rui (J). Zhu, Cheema. A, Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition’
(2012), P.785