Why more companies are prioritising office noise reduction during renovation?
It’s official: excessive workplace noise significantly reduces efficiency and creativity. What’s more, research by the University of Sydney shows that lack of privacy and high noise levels in open-plan offices are a major cause of low productivity and high employee dissatisfaction. When it’s time for office renovation, interior noise reduction is now a priority for many companies.
It’s an issue that affects the self-employed, too, as anyone who has ever tried to work on the corner of a dining table in the midst of normal family life will confirm. The social aspects of work can be important for well-being and productivity, but when a task needs your complete attention, peace and quiet is preferable. Here’s why it’s important to find that space where you can work without disturbance.
First of all, the Sydney researchers reported that reduced noise in the office led to improved concentration and decision-making in employees. Interestingly, the respondents also noted an improvement in memory when noise levels were reduced.
More crucially, noise levels in open-plan offices can be so stressful that it may lead to ill-health, including an increased risk of infectious diseases. This is true even after short periods of exposure to raised noise levels. Companies are waking up to the issues around open-plan and looking for simple remedies.
It’s clear from this that reducing noise in the workplace can benefit us all. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve the situation, whether by incorporating specialist products in a new-build or adapting space creatively as part of an office renovation. So why do many office staff still struggle on with noise levels they find intrusive and counter-productive?
Interestingly, one of the issues is that managers frequently don’t realise there’s a problem. For some, a busy, buzzing office atmosphere suggests productivity and motivated staff. It’s true that tolerance to noise varies from individual to individual. For instance, there are marked differences in the ways extroverts and introverts work, and introverts may find some kinds of noise more of an issue than extroverts do.
The fundamental difference is that generally speaking, extroverts are energised by social interaction, whereas introverts can be drained by it and need to recharge periodically before re-engaging. One of the simplest ways to ensure that both introverts and extroverts can thrive in your office is to provide the quiet, independent work spaces that introverts need, along with more open and sociable areas where extroverts can gather to experience the creative dynamic that they love.
While the social aspects of work are important to introverts too, they don’t usually thrive in an open-plan office. If that is the only space available, it takes creative thinking to alleviate or eliminate problems from noise. Fortunately, there’s a great range of options available today to achieve that.
First of all, identify the kind of issues and then adopt the strategies that tackle them effectively. As BSI consultant Claudia Wiggins notes, most companies identify three major areas of concern. These can often be tackled with acoustical wall and ceiling fills and simple soundproofing techniques. In fact, there’s a case to be made for soundproofing being viewed as part of an overall insulation strategy which will also make the office more energy efficient as well.
Deficient soundproofing also highlights another area of concern: lack of confidentiality in an environment where everyone can hear what’s going on! There should always be sound-proof spaces available for private conversations. Within the main open space itself, clever use of furniture and layout will go a long way to reducing noise issues. Screens and acoustic wall panels can be used for art displays or marketing materials as well as reducing noise.
When it comes to screening, though, there are few options that provide better value for money than plants. They look great, enhance the atmosphere and can create a very effective sound barrier. They can be used to create stunning living walls that provide privacy and a calming background.
It’s perhaps not surprising that floors can be a major source of irritatingly loud noises. This is largely down to the type of surface, with hard surfaces such as wood, or porcelain and ceramic tiles, high on the list of culprits.
Getting the choice of floor material right at the start can save a lot of time and unnecessary expense. Choose tough carpet tiles or easy-care vinyl flooring and the office will benefit from good-looking surfaces that also absorb noise. In fact, this forms part of the effective “absorb-block-cover” strategy for dealing with noise suggested by Parterre Flooring.
In conclusion, here are three points to remember for improving employee well-being through reducing noise in the office: