Yes, Your Office's Open Floor Plan Is Ruining Your Productivity

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If you’ve had trouble concentrating in an open floor-plan office, you’re not alone. Now, at least you’ve got science on your side: A new study suggests that overheard work conversations can decrease productivity—and increase annoyance—of other employees within earshot, more so than random and meaningless background buzz.

Open office plans are becoming increasingly common in workplaces, allowing companies to optimize space and, theoretically, encourage dialogue and collaboration among employees. But they also have their fair share of critics, and complaints about lack of privacy and noisy coworkers abound.

It’s no surprise that noise can be distracting, but researchers from Yamaguchi University in Japan wanted to see how work-related chatter might compare with other, less meaningful hubbub. So they performed a series of experiments to investigate the impact of different types of noises, using a test known as the “odd-ball” paradigm.

During odd-ball tests, people are asked to identify unique events sprinkled throughout a series of repetitive events. “To complete the odd-ball task it is necessary to regulate attention to a stimulus," said Takahiro Tamesue, associate professor of engineering, explained in a press release.

In one experiment, participants watched pictures flashing on a computer monitor while listening to either pink noise (similar to white noise, but with a spectrum closely resembling that of human voices) or actual male and female speech. Over a 10-minute period, they were asked to count the number of times a red square appeared in a mix of otherwise similar objects.

In the second experiment, people were asked to count the instances of an infrequent 2-kilohertz tone amid a series of 1-kilohertz tones. Afterward, they were asked to rate their level of annoyance at each sound, on a scale of one to seven.

During these and other trials, researchers measured participants’ brain waves using electrodes on their scalps. They looked specifically at two responses known as the N100 and P300 components, which peak approximately 100 and 300 milliseconds after a stimulus (in this case, a sound) is presented. These are thought to represent the activation of neurons involved in analyzing and making decisions about incoming sensory information, Tamesue says.

The researchers found that when participants listened to meaningful speech, they experienced large reductions in their N100 and P300 components—indicating that their selective attention to thinking-related tasks was influenced by the noise. Other experiments also showed that meaningful noises, such as music and conversation, led to greater declines in performance on memory and arithmetic tasks.

And yes, you guessed it: Meaningful noises had a stronger effect on levels of annoyance, as well, compared to meaningless ones.

Tamesue's research focuses on improving environments by analyzing the physiological and psychological effects of noise. He presented his new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, at a joint meeting of the Acoustical Societies of America and Japan, occurring this week in Hawaii.

The findings suggest that settings used for cognitive tasks, such as workplaces and schools, could benefit from designs that take into account the sound that’s likely to be present, says Tamesue—not just the volume, he adds, but the meaningfulness, as well.

“Surrounding conversations often disturb the business operations conducted in such open offices,” he says. “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.”

As for employees already stuck in a poorly designed office space? You could always don your headphones and crank up the white noise. Or, take a cue from other scientific research: Studies have shown that music without lyrics can enhance mental performance, and that natural sounds like a babbling mountain brook can be relaxing (and not distracting) in stressful workplaces.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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Saucy Vegetarian Meatballs

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Saucy Vegetarian Meatballs Recipe
Saucy Vegetarian Meatballs
Cauliflower, mushrooms, bulgur and seasonings combine to form the base of this healthy vegetarian meatball recipe. A quick homemade tomato-basil sauce replaces the traditional marinara to save sodium. Serve over whole-wheat spaghetti with a green salad.

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What Is A Foam Roller, How Do I Use It, And Why Does It Hurt? – 5 Best Foam Rollers

What Is A Foam Roller, How Do I Use It, And Why Does It Hurt? – 5 Best Foam Rollers

Self-myofascial release, also known as “foam rolling,” has transformed from a once mysterious technique used only by professional athletes, coaches, and therapists to a familiar everyday practice for people at all levels of fitness. Recent information, technology, and affordable products have introduced an increasing array of training and recovery methods to the average person.

 

Self-myofascial release is a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. This method can be performed with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, Theracane, or your own hands. By applying pressure to specific points on your body you are able to aid in the recovery of muscles and assist in returning them to normal function. Normal function means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and ready to perform at a moment’s notice.

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Check out this ‘How to use a Foam Roller Correctly‘ Video

Chicken Katsu with Creamy Slaw

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Chicken Katsu with Creamy Slaw Recipe
Chicken Katsu with Creamy Slaw
This crispy Japanese chicken recipe comes complete with a creamy warm slaw on the side. Serve with steamed brown rice or buckwheat soba noodles to round out the meal. We like to use chicken cutlets made with dark-meat chicken thighs—they have more than twice the immune-boosting zinc of white-meat chicken breasts.

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Paprika Chicken Thighs with Brussels Sprouts

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Paprika Chicken Thighs with Brussels Sprouts Recipe
Paprika Chicken Thighs with Brussels Sprouts
In this healthy chicken recipe, paprika-rubbed chicken thighs are nestled into Brussels sprouts and shallots and roasted on a sheet pan in the oven for an easy, healthy dinner. As the chicken thighs roast, the garlicky drippings flavor the Brussels sprouts and shallots. Delicious one-pan cooking! Smoked paprika adds a touch of smoky flavor—look for it at well-stocked supermarkets or in the bulk-spice section at natural-foods markets. Regular paprika can be used in its place, but doesn’t add the hint of smoke.

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14 Holiday Health Hazards to Avoid

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Basic boxing guide

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Boxing can be integrated into various exercise genres including cardio, HIIT, plyometric, reflex training and stamina training. Reap the benefits of this all-rounder with Tiffanee Cook, Boxing Trainer from Fightfit Boxing Centre’s boxing basics.

 

It is important that before starting a boxing workout, your body, joints and muscles are nice and warm. The best way to do this is a boxing-specific warm-up: e.g. shadow-boxing.

 

When shadow-boxing, make sure you move around, keeping your boxing stance with light feet; remember to “float like a butterfly”. As you do this, throw punches such as jabs, crosses and hooks. Start slowly and pick up the pace and intensity as you feel your body warming up.

Shadow-boxing/sparring is often done in front of a mirror, which enables you to check that your stance is on cue and hands are up. 

More advanced punches such as the rip and the upper cut require good timing and a strong core. Alternatively, visit https://www.youtube.com.

 

1. Stance

boxingstance.jpg

 

 

Stand with feet approximately shoulder-width apart with your preferred back leg roughly 30 cm back. Keep light on your feet with your back heel off the ground to help you float around the bag/ring. Staying flat-footed will make you slow and an easy target! Keep your knees slightly bent.

2. Cross 

boxingjab.jpg

 

 

 

 

The stronger straight punch using the back hand. This is most boxers’ power punch.

3. Jab

boxingjabb.jpg

 

 

This is a straight punch using the front hand. Often used as a set-up punch for the stronger backhand, to measure distance or in some rare cases as a power shot. 

4. Hook 

boxinghook.jpg

The hook can be thrown by either hand and is executed by twisting the hips and shoulders quickly as your hand comes around to strike the side of the bag (or in your imagination, your opponent’s jaw).

Discover more ways to improve your cardio fitness here.

 

 

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21 Reasons You'll Live Longer Than Your Friends

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Stuffed Peppers

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Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Stuffed Peppers
Lean ground turkey makes a moist, low-fat substitute for the ground beef that's usually found in stuffed pepper filling. To add a nutty flavor and boost the nutrition even further, we call for cooked brown rice, but this recipe will also work with white rice.

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Green Chicken Curry

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Green Chicken Curry Recipe
Green Chicken Curry
If you’re looking for a basic green Thai chicken curry recipe, start here. Green is the hottest type of curry paste; to take this chicken recipe down a notch, try red Thai curry paste (considered “medium” heat) or mild yellow curry paste. If you have a shellfish allergy, compare curry paste ingredient lists—some brands contain shrimp and some don’t.

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