Staying Focused in an Open Office

I work in a pretty cool “office” and I can’t complain. We have access to unlimited coffee, snacks (healthy ones and the kind that taste good) and plenty of space for impromptu creative debates or dance parties. Like most creative workplaces, Grain & Mortar has an open floor plan that lends itself to an open exchange of ideas, brainstorming and noise.  So, like many others, I have had to find a way to focus in the midst of all that free-flowing creativity.

Music has always helped me focus. I have a very specific musical need while I’m working. It can’t be background music from a communal speaker. I can’t rely on the sounds drifting from a coworker’s speakers. And nothing on traditional radio stations will do the trick. I need a specific type of instrumental music to calm me, get me focused, and inspire me for the work ahead of me.

Genres such as electronica, instrumental hip-hop, chillwave and downtempo are a few of the many I enjoy. No doubt, this is a pretty broad spectrum and it reflects how my taste has evolved over the years. I’ve left behind post-rock bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Unwed Sailor, The Album Leaf, and Mogwai. After years of obsessing over guitar driven post-rock bands, I discovered less orchestral, faster-paced styles like El Ten Eleven. To me, the difference between electronic and post-rock music is like the difference between contemplating space exploration versus survival after a nuclear winter.

How you listen is as important as what you’re listening to. If you’re working in an open, communal space you’re most likely wearing headphones, and if not, everyone most likely wishes you were.

My advice: skip the earbuds and get yourself a quality pair of headphones. I’m a fan of Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50’s. They’re comfortable and sound better than your fancy pair of Beats by Dre. The Audio-Technica’s are $170 but if you listen to music every single day at work, they’re worth the investment. If that’s too much, try the AKG 240’s ($75).

I’ve put together a playlist of the style of music and artists I listen to most at work. Enjoy!

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