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Shhhhh! Do you need silence to write?

by Leo Wiles
08 March 2019

Freelancers for the most part fall into two camps.  Those whose productivity skyrockets along with the volume of their latest playlist and those of us who need silence to write or get into any kind of productive flow.

As to which camp is larger, wonder no more: a new survey by file-transferring company WeTransfer found that 65 percent of creative people need quiet to do their best work.

I for one require a clean house, my mobile on silent and a handgun to do my best work.  Not only does the water pistol keep my children at bay when I’m on deadline (joke peeps), the Nerf gun also doubles up as an effective training tool to teach my two big beautiful fur babies that mummy does not need a 24-hour bark alarm when passers-by are indeed just passing by.

For it is intrusive bursts of noise as much as decibels that can cause me to lose my train of thought – and of course disrupt phone interviews or Skype meetings and my professional poise along with it. Worse still, it plays into the hands of employers looking for reasons to advocate for a bums-on-seats workforce. (The kind who still aren’t convinced that their money is being well-spent by hiring a talented remote team.)

Personally, I would argue that working in an open plan office is one of the biggest productivity killers of all time.  Not just for hot-desking freelancers unused to the constant audio barrage, but also the staffers under constant pressure to produce 2,000 words a day amidst a fairground of ringing phones, pinging emails, people ‘stopping’ by your desk or even background office banter.

Don’t take my word for it.  Noise is said to be one of the biggest stressors, according to government Workplace Health and Safety regulator Work Cover.  A Cornell University paper adds that ‘unwanted sound’ in the workplace causes fatigue, stress and illness – resulting in lost revenue due to sick days taken by our office bound brethren.

If that wasn’t enough, psychologists Simon Banbury and Dianne C. Berry found that productivity falls by approximately 66 percent when you’re subjected to somebody else’s conversation while you’re trying to read or write.  Not only frustrating, this intolerance of the constant audio disruptions can also lead to workplace dissatisfaction and low morale.

No wonder so many of us have ditched in-house work for the quieter sanctuary of our home offices – where of course, you can set the noise level to whatever’s acceptable to you.

Do you need silence to write or is pumping up the jam more conducive to your creativity?

Leo Wiles

Leo Wiles has worked as an editor, journalist and PR for over 20 years before recently retraining as a photographer. These days, she spends her time behind a lens, juggling her own clients with her work at Rachel's List, and her three gorgeous but lively kids.

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