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Create a ‘Quiet Workplace’ and Reclaim Your Productivity

Constant distractions and disruptions make it impossible to thrive at work. Joe McCormack, founder of The Quiet Workplace, shares how to turn down the noise.

Excessive noise in the workplace can significantly impact your concentration, productivity, and overall well-being. “The effects of noise on the psyche are dependent on the individual and what they consider to be acceptable. Different sounds affect people differently,” according to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). “Noise may startle, annoy, and disrupt concentration. Even nuisance noise can lead to issues with concentration, productivity, irritability, and stress…”

Photo: Joe McCormack | Courtesy
Photo: Joe McCormack | Courtesy

“We’ve been conditioned to believe that the hurricane of noise that we are plunged into at the office is normal,” says McCormack, founder of The Quiet Workplace and author of the upcoming book Quiet Works: Making Silence the Secret Ingredient of the Workday.

“It’s not ‘normal’ at all. From literal noise in the form of digital distractions and disruptive coworkers to an overabundance of information, thoughtless communication, and meetings, professionals are set up to fail. We are left starving for quiet—the quiet that allows us to work strategically and intentionally do what’s most essential for all professionals: think.”

This is why most professionals would be well served to slow down and infuse quiet intervals into daily work life, says McCormack who is pioneering the process of creating quieter, more productive workplaces for professionals.

“Quiet doesn’t mean the literal absence of sound. Rather it’s about setting aside time each day to focus, plan, do deep work, and make smart decisions.”

Quiet doesn’t mean the literal absence of sound. Rather it’s about setting aside time each day to focus, plan, do deep work, and make smart decisions. In workplaces that revolve around busyness, action, and constant connection and collaboration, this is a radical choice and one that packs an unexpected punch.

When quiet intervals are a part of your daily routine, creativity blossoms, your relationships grow, and you can express yourself like never before. Why? Because quiet time allows you to think before you take any action.

“Thinking should always come before speaking or doing, but it’s nearly impossible when professionals don’t intentionally make time for it,” says McCormack. “It’s the missing ingredient for most, and when you add it to your workday, you may experience life-changing results.”

These changes won’t happen overnight, but as you spend the year focused on incorporating quiet intervals in your workday, you’ll see a slow and steady improvement. Here are five tips to try:


Don’t wait for permission to collaborate less.

Some might worry that their employees, colleagues, or clients won’t let them take time for quiet. This is a real concern. However, an often-effective approach is to act like you’ve been given permission and wait to see if anyone challenges or calls you out, says McCormack. If they don’t, you’ve got the green light to practice quiet intervals at your discretion. If they do, consider talking with them about your need for more concentration and why you’re doing it. They will have a change of heart when they understand your motives—and see the results.


Schedule quiet intervals.

If you don’t book it, you won’t do it. Treat your quiet time just like you would any other professional appointment. Further, when you’re planning your day, don’t fill your calendar with back-to-back meetings all day with no space in between. Schedule small blocks of time before and after each meeting to organize your thoughts and prepare.


Protect your quiet space.

You may or may not have an office with a door, but regardless, you can still designate a specific area as your quiet workplace. Put up a sign that reads “Do not disturb” and ask people directly not to communicate with you during your designated quiet time. You could also wear noise-canceling headphones or reserve a conference room. If you’re working remotely, simply turn off notifications and go offline.


Take ‘tech timeouts.’

Most of us are tethered to technology all day, and this overreliance on technology sets us up for abundant distractions and disruptions. A tech timeout can turn down the noise. To do this, simply hit mute on your devices. Silence your phone or turn off text, email, and social media alerts. Next, separate yourself physically from nonessential devices; put them in a drawer. Finally, reach for a pen and paper and see what happens. You might find that you don’t need screens to do your best work.


Use the 7-to-7 rule to rest, reflect, and recharge.

What is your first and last thought of the day? Chances are, it involves checking your phone for updates. The 7-to-7 rule will help you break this habit and develop more intentional technology habits. Put your phone and other tech devices away beginning at 7:00 p.m., and don’t check them again until 7:00 a.m. the next day. If this time window doesn’t make sense for you, choose one that does. The point is to set screen time boundaries and focus on more enriching activities (including quiet time).


Finally, set an example for your team, advises McCormack. Talk to them about your quiet journey and invite them to join you. “Be a quiet ambassador by sharing the benefits you experience in the new year,” concludes McCormack. “Explain how embracing more time alone has improved your professional life and how you can better collaborate with them when you interact. This will begin to shift the workplace culture and help your coworkers become productive and efficient in the process.”


Joe McCormack is the author of the upcoming book Quiet Works: Making Silence the Secret Ingredient of the Workday. As an entrepreneur, marketing executive, and author, he is recognized for his work in concise, strategic communication and leadership development. His clients include Microsoft, Mastercard, Grainger, Boeing, Harley-Davidson, Bank of America, JLL, and a variety of U.S. military units and government organizations. In 2022, Joe launched a new program called “Quiet Works” to help professionals manage the non-stop noise in their lives by finding dedicated times and places for quiet. Joe is also the author of Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less (Wiley, 2014) and Noise: Living and Leading When Nobody Can Focus (Wiley, 2019). His podcast, Just Saying, helps professionals become effective and efficient communicators in an age of information overload. Visit josephmccormack.com to learn more.


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