Years ago, people didn’t give much thought to office background noise. Sound effect issues were rarely studied because many office workers were either executives who worked in closed offices or employees who were expected to deal with whatever environmental factors were present.
Today, however, many offices are laid out according to an open workspace plan, meaning there are few — if any — closed offices. This setup is believed to enhance communication and creativity, but it also means all kinds of different sounds are traveling all around the office at all times, and the cacophony that results is often not the best background noise for working.
Your ears are trained to pay attention to human speech, so you may find yourself eavesdropping on co-workers’ conversations even if you don’t want to. This issue can interfere with your ability to do your own work. Even if you’re not actively listening, different sounds reflecting off the smooth, hard surfaces of your open office and crashing into each other can create harsh noises that are a massive distraction. Research shows that workers can lose nearly an hour and a half worth of activity in an eight-hour day to the distraction of noise pollution.
In addition to distraction and loss of concentration and productivity, noise pollution in the office can actually create physical stress. You may have noticed your stress levels rising when you were in the presence of loud traffic, screaming children or other unpleasant sounds. If that’s true, you’re not alone. Prolonged exposure to some sounds is known to cause increased heart rate, blood pressure spikes and other stress responses.
So what can be done about the negative impacts of background noise? Those who have managed open concept offices for a while have come up with a number of effective solutions.
One solution is to provide each employee with noise-canceling headphones. There are some very good noise-canceling headphones on the market, and their use can put each employee into their own world. Some may feel that this action defeats a lot of the purpose of having an open concept office space, but having these headphones on hand for when an employee really needs to concentrate can deliver great benefits.
Pods. We live in a pod-based world. Setting aside some small, enclosed rooms to serve as individual office pods where a worker can go when they need to finish up a project, have a conference with a colleague, make a quiet phone call or just get away from the noise for a bit is another great solution to office noise concerns.
Still another solution that can be very effective is to add a soundproofing material to your office environment. For example, Acoustica Projects offers acoustic baffles that you can hang from the ceiling. These baffles hang unobtrusively above workers, catching and absorbing those harsh and conflicting sounds that work their way through the office. Suddenly, communication will be clearer, and the office will feel quieter without you having to do anything to disrupt the flow of the open office plan.
To order Acoustica Projects sound absorbing products for your office — or for more information about combating background office noise and unwanted sounds in general — contact Acoustica Projects now.