Most full-time employees spend more than 2,000 hours per year in the office–so, there’s no question that irritations develop specific to the workplace, says Tom Gimbel, president and chief executive of LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based staffing firm. “Even a ‘perfect’ office space is swarming with annoyances," he says. "The fact that it’s considered perfect is a blaring indicator it contains frustrations.”
If you’re currently trying to think of one but are interrupted by your colleague in the next cube who’s talking way too loudly on the phone, you’ve got your answer.
“Annoyances in the office occur at the same frequency as printer paper jams, reaching for empty coffee pots in the morning, and shortages in the office fridge,” Gimbel says. “While these may just be button-pushers for most, other common workplace irritations may include sarcastic criticism, being unappreciated for your work, or office chit-chat.”
Gimbel says employees tend to think think that these irritations are distracting, and often blame any form of work-block on all subjects apart from themselves. “The office neighbor talking too loud is to blame for the constant loss of concentration. Excelling as an employee and taking on extracurricular projects is halted because the employer isn’t offering compensation or a reward. The sarcastic manager is the reason the employee lacks confidence or comfort. These distractions are to blame for the employee’s lack in performance, or at least that’s his or her perception of it.”
But as it turns out, these workplace irritations are actually productive–not destructive–and lend to innovative efforts, Gimbel says. “These irritants provoke different facets of your brain, subsequently igniting a flame far quicker than if they weren’t present.”
Here are five office-related annoyances that can actually boost productivity and innovation.
1. Receiving sarcastic criticism from a manager or client.
You simply are inspired to work harder, not niftier, when you get yelled at, Gimbel explains. “When scolded, your sole goal is to do something as you were told so that you’re not reprimanded again. Receiving sarcasm requires far more of a cognitive effort and complex thinking. Because you have to peel back the layers of the satirical remarks, your brain is forced to analyze and interpret different possible meanings behind the comments, hence increasing ingenuity and problem-solving skills.”
2. Messy office spaces.
“Nothing is more irritating then walking into an office space that resembles an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive,” Gimbel says. “Irritating as it may be, that clutter can actually help you stream line your thoughts and reach your decisions far quicker. Research shows that when you’re surrounded by chaos, your mind simplifies the job at hand.”
3. Noisy distractions.
Your creative process requires a certain caliber of background noise. When your brain is forced to tune out the excess background fuss, your abstract thought process kicks into motion; therefore, ideas pour in more fluidly because your brain is already working in high gear, he says. “Think about it this way: If you’re in a quiet space, you’re not using your brain at its maximum intellectual capacity–but when tossed into a venue with noise, the bar is set higher, and your brain is being challenged at an entirely new level.”
4. Office gossip.
Office gossip has actually been proven to relieve stress and improve productivity, Gimbel says. “However, only consider the appropriate gossip—that is information that will better the entire group, such as spotting poor practices and bad habits or even shooting the breeze with good things that are happening to co-workers. When you see an employee perform in a poor manner and conceal it, your anxiety skyrockets. As a therapeutic session, gossip allows for you to release the tension and ultimately calms you down. Keep in mind it’s not malicious gossip; not chatter about someone’s mismatched shoes, but rather how ill performance is bringing the team down.”
5. Extra work, no reward, no motivation.
Creativity stems from the want to create. Therefore, when you want to create something, the excitement is enough of a reward. “You’re at your most creative competency when you neither expect nor get a reward or bonus,” he says. “When there’s no compensation, the pressure to perform subsides, and at ease, your mind drifts wherever it wishes.”
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