While I know how lucky I am to still have my job during this tumultuous time, I admit I struggle to stay focused and motivated every day. The truth is: I miss working in an office. (I know ... the grass is always greener.) I have a desk at home that I can work from and I'm pretty good about setting up clear "office hours," including time for breaks so I don't burn out, but there's just something about the office I miss.
I thought it might be my co-workers or the action of walking to a meeting that isn't held over Zoom — two things I definitely do miss — but I finally figured out what it is: Ambient office noise.
You know, the buzz of the often-too-cold AC system, sounds of a desk neighbor typing away, a group of accountants chatting in the hallway — all of those seemingly background noises that provide a level of white noise I find crucial for productivity. This revelation came to me in an instant when I came across the microsite Reichenbergerstr 121, an adorably drawn simulation of a busy office. Colorful shapes act as your "coworkers" and buzz around the different rooms providing a variety of subtle sounds: footsteps, whistling, typing, and even chewing (arguably not necessary).
You can click on each shape and object, which "turns on" its personalized noise, from print jobs to chair creaks, or — my personal preference — select the play button in the lower-left corner, which plays a quiet hum of ambient office noise on a loop.
I listened to it for about 40 minutes this morning and it immediately filled me with a weird kind of peaceful energy. At random moments, they add in quiet indecipherable conversations, ringing phones, sneezes and stressed-out sighs, and even the sound of a ping-pong game for those missing millennial-friendly office spaces.
It's not the real thing, but in these trying times, I'll take anything that feels like