Is there a right level of noise in the workplace?

Sound is all around us whether we notice it or not. Different sounds have altered effects on our moods depending on our external environment. Take the workplace for example, each day we sit in an office and are consumed by various sounds. But is there a right level of noise?

Hasty typing, general chit-chat, monotonous printing, the same dubbed radio “classics” on what seems to be a continuous loop, vicious road rage sagas outside and the repetitious sound of yet another construction are all noises which consume our working day.

And let’s face it, the majority of these are annoying. And when deadlines are looming and the pressure is on the last thing you want to distract you is unwanted noise.

In this blog we look at the effects of noise in the office and how office design with better acoustics will benefit your team.

The effect of a noisy workplace

Through improper workplace design your employees could be left frustrated, distracted and unhappy. An increase in office population, various technologies and a rise in collaboration has increased the level of noise within the office.

Without taking this into consideration when designing the layout and design of your workspace, poor acoustics could result in reduced productivity, workplace stress as well as financial costs.

Research shows that if exposed to one nearby conversation workers can be up to 60% less productive. While some co-workers may stress the need to have ‘background’ noise and that collaborative thinking is the way forward, others may regard this as highly disrupting and a ‘productivity killer.’

Admittedly we’re all suspects of engaging in conversations that aren’t work related. These are not only distracting to ourselves but to those around us.

And this is costly! According to the World Health Organisation, the annual cost from excessive noise in Europe is roughly £30 billion. This has been calculated by the number of lost work days, reduced productivity and health costs. Figures also show that 70% of workers think that noise in an open working environment is the number one distraction making it difficult to think and concentrate comprehensively.

How workplace design can create a right level of noise

Studies have shown there to be a 175% increase in employee satisfaction when working in a quiet environment. But, some of us may need that faint hum of background noise. Is there a right level of noise within the workplace and how can office design help?

At Workspace Design and Build we understand that the most important thing when creating an environment to work in is ensuring staff satisfaction. Here are a few things that can be done to help office acoustics:

• Use sound absorbing wall panels: These can be installed to minimise sound reflection around the offices and from hard surfaces
• Install acoustic ceilings: These will absorb additional sounds and will help create a better working environment to work in
• Incorporate a mixture of work spaces: Such as private work stations and break out zones. Not only will these maximise employee productivity at key times, but will also allow people to work individually should they need to.

And, of course it depends on the nature of the organisation. Working in a creative agency for example will require individuals to work in a flexible office space to foster necessary collaboration and interaction.

Therefore, we recommend that – like in most aspects of life – balance is key. You don’t want the radio blaring tracks all day long, but sometimes it may be comforting. See what the general consensus is and be considerate to those around you.

And you?

What do you think? Do you think that we should ban office chit-chat and use of the radio in order to focus or can compromises be made? Let us know by getting in touch below or on our Facebook and Twitter.
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