While we’d love to believe that success at work can solely be attributed to #girlboss determination, sometimes being productive has more to do with your surroundings than your attitude. Sure, organizing your desk and perfecting your to-do list can help you find workplace peace… but sometimes the everyday commotion at the office is waaay too distracting to get anything done. Thanks to a group of Japanese researchers, there might be a solution to your in-office productivity problem… and it involves getting yourself a cheeky venti coffee.


In this study, a team led by Dr. Takahiro Tamesue of Yamaguchi University asked volunteers to listen for a specific sound or watch for a certain image to appear on their computer screens while listening to either meaningful sounds (like conversation) or meaningless noises. In addition to having their accuracy tracked and their brainwaves measured by electrodes, at the end of the trial, each participant also rated how annoying they found each sound.

Combining these results together, the researchers demonstrated something pretty cool. Meaningful sounds (AKA work wifey having a conference call in the next cube over about her big new assignment) are far more likely to be both annoying and distracting than meaningless noises (like the clatter of cups and hiss of steam wands you’d get in a coffee shop).


“Surrounding conversations often disturb the business operations conducted in open offices,” notes Dr. Tamesue. “Because it is difficult to soundproof an open office, a way to mask meaningful speech with some other sound would be of great benefit for achieving a comfortable sound environment.” Although most of us can’t jet away to a cafe whenever we need to buckle down for a hardcore productivity sesh, Dr. Tamesue makes a great point. If you want to get a lot of work done, try avoiding areas where there’s a lot of chatter, or plug in your headphones and listen to a YouTube playlist with random coffee shop noises. Hey, it’s worth a(n espresso) shot!

Do you tend to feel more productive out of the office? Tweet us @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)