Noise pollution and poor office acoustics are the biggest cause of distractions and loss of concentration in the workplace. Because sound is intangible - something we can neither see or touch - it is easy to underplay the detrimental effect it can have on the productivity and performance of a business.
The open-plan office has been the de facto workplace standard for more than two decades. The benefits for business owners have been clear: more employees occupying less space, and a significant reduction in fit-out costs compared to cellular offices. But whilst these numbers have stacked up for business owners, lack of concentration caused by noise pollution is drastically impeding productivity and performance.
As sound and communication expert, Julian Treasure comments: “Noise in offices changes people’s behaviour. It makes them less helpful, more frustrated, absenteeism goes up, and so does the rate of sickness”.
More recently, studies by acoustic engineers and those commissioned by leading companies have allowed us to gauge and quantify the true impact of noise pollution and workplace designers have started to embrace these findings to create ‘acoustically aware’ spaces.
This is happening at a time when the workplace is evolving faster than ever. Technology is driving this change and offices are becoming more collaborative and people-focused. This has led the traditional open-plan office environment to evolve. The need for quiet areas has taken people ‘away from the desk’ to meeting booths, quiet pods and zoned areas for specific functions. Private phone calls can now take place in sound proofed telephone hoods, away from the open plan desks.
It’s not just innovate furniture products that are improving the acoustic landscape. Acoustic wall-mounted panels and ceiling-hung tiles and rafts are made with sound absorbent materials and offered in a cornucopia of shapes, patterns and finishes, bringing form and function to the creative design process.
There’s still a long way to go for the humble open-plan office, but workplace designers are responding by making provisions for quiet spaces. Treasure concludes: “We need to start designing offices that are fit for the ears as well as the eyes”.
Are you concerned about the impact noise pollution is having on your office? Contact us now for a free acoustic consultation.