radio, productiviteit

Turn that radio off!

It is the most normal thing in the world in most Dutch companies in almost all departments. A whining radio. Cozy according to the employees and according to some even good for motivation. I do not believe it. Organizations can perform better if they turn off all those radios.

Recently I was reminded that Dutch employees have acquired a special privilege over the years. The blaring radio. An English female manager who has her business worldwide pointed out to me this curious phenomenon: “Would they be able to hear any alarm signal,” said sharply. The radio in the warehouse we were both visiting was also quite loud, so my answer was negative.

But not only in warehouses radios are making noise all day long. Also in administrative departments, in a Sales department where many calls come in, production departments. Only in call centers you will not hear a radio, otherwise they will not be able to understand the customers well.

Sound, measured in decibels, is a cumulative system. Because of this you are forced, in order to make yourself understood, to always produce more vocal decibels to get above the radio. Simple check for this: In a department where the radio is on all day, switch it off suddenly and be amazed at how loud people have to speak in order to understand each other.

Many people also claim that this makes them work better. But there is no evidence for this. It has never been shown that productivity in a department increases when a radio is allowed. The other way around. Obviously, it is extremely disturbing if you have a lot of telephone traffic, that a radio is turned on in the background. However, many functions also require high concentration, with background noise being distracting. And in production environments, there is a danger that the screaming radio means that people do not notice sound signals or warnings from colleagues in time.

It is a curious phenomenon of man himself, who wants to make continuous sound. If there is no radio on, we continuously look for conversations with others. Few people dare or can work in silence. But people who can and want to work in silence are more concentrated and therefore make fewer mistakes, which improves productivity. And just ask each individual in the department if they really want to wear that radio. Good chance that the necessary employees are annoyed just like you, but dare not say anything so as not to spoil the atmosphere. So it’s time for management to take action: Turn off that radio. You are under no obligation to allow this.