Silence is an endangered species. Here’s how you can preserve it in the workplace.
Quiet is a “think tank of the soul,” says Gordon Hempton, a sound recording specialist and co-author of One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Preserve Quiet. It is in quiet spaces that our intuition reemerges from the intellectual chatter pervading our workdays. Hempton cautions, though, that, “Silence is an endangered species.”
If silence is endangered, then open offices may have precipitated its demise in the workplace. Without thoughtful design, open office plans foster collaboration and communication at the expense of concentration and contemplation. Limiting distractions and noise can improve employee attention and productivity but may not go far enough. With increasing focus on employee well-being and mindfulness, forward-thinking companies are creating quiet zones, meditative environments, and even sacred spaces to lower the cacophony, boost creativity, and restore emotional balance.
Architecture and design firms, at the behest of clients, are now incorporating “room to think” into corporate environment plans. In 2016, the SaaS software giant, Salesforce, added a meditation room on each floor of its San Francisco offices. They’ve done the same in their London headquarters. Medtronic has offered its employees use of a meditation room for over 30 years. The Chicago headquarters of SRAM — manufacturer of high performance bicycle components — sports a quiet, softly lit break room that can be used for reflection. Prentice-Hall publishing company created a meditation room called the “Quiet Room”, where employees can sit quietly and de-stress.