Not all employees can have their own office with a door to close so they can concentrate better. Actually, most employees must manage to be productive in spite of all the distractions around them like conversations between co-workers, noise from nearby phones and computers, foot traffic… And, then, of course, there are those who work in an industrial setting, where there is no end to the noise.
Fortunately, there are some strategies that you can put in place to boost employees’ concentration. Here are our eight suggestions… You can choose the ones that best apply to your situation.
1. Each space has its own rules
Define the spaces reserved for work and the proper conduct for that area. Keep the area as quiet as possible, limit movement, avoid having noisy discussions there, etc. Also define the areas where it is appropriate to have social interaction (cafeteria, common areas, kitchenette, etc.). Make it easy for employees to follow the rules by ensuring easy access to your meeting rooms or any other space where group work is possible and encouraged.
2. Have adequate equipment
In some cases, a few simple adjustments to existing equipment are all it takes to limit distractions: lower the telephone ring volume, oil or replace squeaky office chair wheels, distribute “Do not disturb” signs and posters, etc. As well, an investment in slightly more costly equipment, such as partitions or headsets for phone and computer use, sometimes prove to be worthwhile.
3. Listen to music
Classical music with no lyrics played at medium volume, or recordings of nature sounds, appear to be conducive to concentration for office work. In the same work environment, employees who want to block sounds around them might find noise-cancelling headphones helpful.
4. Encourage breaks
Occupational health experts say that taking regular breaks boosts creativity, concentration and productivity. Even a quick five-minute break to go to the washroom and drink some water helps a person disconnect from the task at hand and go back feeling energized.
5. Get into a routine to get off to a good start
If you stop to take a break, you have to be able to get going again. Following a short routine may help you tune out distractions. It can be as simple as having a few sips of water and doing a couple of stretches before getting back to your work. The important thing is to develop a habit that tells your body it’s time to concentrate.
6. Have individual schedules
Take advantage of the new technologies by making full use of shared calendars. If employees need some time with no disturbances, encourage them to block off time in a shared online calendar. You can also give them some “Do not disturb” signs that they can use to indicate the time that they will be available again.
7. Make optimal use of email
Get your team members used to not disturbing their colleagues whenever they have a question, unless it’s essential. They can include all their questions in a single email, call or meeting. Consider setting rules to limit needless or somewhat irrelevant email exchanges. If possible, allow employees to turn off email alerts or other distracting notifications on their computer.
8. Be flexible and responsive!
All environments and all workers are unique. What one person finds distracting might not bother someone else. Consult with your employees to find out what might help them concentrate better and be more productive. Some people are very effective teleworkers, while others might prefer to start working a little earlier. Demonstrate flexibility as much as possible to accommodate your team, and they will surely appreciate it.
 DeLoach, A. G., Carter, J. P., & Braasch, J. (2015), Tuning the cognitive environment: Sound masking with “natural” sounds in open-plan offices, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 137(4), 2291-2291. DOI:10.1121/1.4920363