Sound effects – The impact of noise on employee productivity

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Eight hours a day is a long time to spend in the unnatural space of an office. We are surrounded by noise caused by anything from our colleagues, to the AC, to the even just the sound of our computers. It is therefore only natural that being unable to reduce their exposure to this aural bombardment has a negative impact on employees’ mental and physical wellbeing.

High levels of noise have been proven in numerous studies to result in decreased productivity and increases employee absences.

We spend almost a third of our lives in the office, so it is vital that we are working in a space where we feel physically and mentally comfortable and at ease. Creating spaces employees enjoy working in should be near the top of any employer’s priority list.

Reducing noise levels has a positive impact on job perception, attitude, satisfaction and work ethic, as well as overall productivity. A report by Oxford Economics in 2016 shows that both millenials and Generation Z feel more annoyed and distracted by noise than their older colleagues.

Businesses should consider the design of their workplace and how it affects noise levels. Seemingly minor changes can have a big impact on how employees feel about work, and the effects on productivity will only benefit your business financially.

Open plan layouts have been popular in recent years, and have been found to provide gains in teamwork, flexibility and communication, however noise levels often reach unacceptable levels. The increased noise can be distracting to workers and reduce the quality of their work, as well as cause a lack of privacy in conversations. There is also more opportunity for distraction from nearby colleagues.

A recent study testing the ability of 18-25 year olds to work under increasing noise levels showed a significant decrease in work speed and an increase in errors under high levels of noise.

An open plan layout may facilitate communication and group problem-solving, but the potential impact on employee mental health of the reduced privacy and peace can lead to a higher staff turnover and less motivated employees.

Employers want their workers to be high-performing, creative and innovative, but also relaxed and stress-free. The average open-plan office design provides the space to be high-performing, creative and innovative, but fail to account for the stress and distraction of increased noise in the modern world’s more informal workplaces.

Overhearing a phone call is a uniquely distracting event, and numerous experiments have proven that intelligible speech of any kind saps concentration much more than a constant background chatter.

With less than 30% of office workers reporting to the latest Leesman Review that they were satisfied with their opportunities to work in a quieter environment, there is clearly a lot of improvement to be made for many businesses. Elements such as the aural environment should be considered with the same importance as the more widely recognized components of office design such as ventilation, architecture and engineering.

Acoustic engineers focus on these three key factors in reducing noise and improving privacy:

  • Covering

Deliberate low-level background noise such as music can muffle distant conversations and other distracting sounds

  • Blocking

Sound-dampening partitions, walls and windows prevent sound from travelling as well as keeping outside noises like traffic from getting into the office.

  • Absorption

Ceilings can reflect a lot of sound around the office, sound-absorbing ceiling tiles reduce the impact of this.

No business owner can expect consistent high performance from staff who work in unreasonable conditions. Tackling unacceptable levels of noise in your office is a low-cost investment that will give your employees a healthier and happier place to work.

DB Interiors build workplaces with effective noise management design to boost your productivity and employee job satisfaction. Get in touch to find out more.

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