Identifying sound levels is essential to benefit productivity
Tasks such as focusing on a friend's voice at a loud party or blocking out the phone conversation of the person sitting next to you on the bus while trying to read require the brain to suppress distractions in order to achieve concentration on the chosen activity.
This is a way to understand what is experienced daily in an open office. After all, before the open, creative offices of the modern era, offices were generally quiet, acoustically controlled, and not too distracting. In recent decades, many offices have eradicated the cubicle in favor of a cutting-edge approach. The objective of offering a more creative, stimulating, and collaborative workspace was met.
However, as often happens, new problems arise. Open offices are noisy. Even closed offices can suffer from this problem when many people gather for a meeting or when noisy work needs to be done in one area of the office. Noise pollution and overwhelming sound can mean big problems for the team.
There are also specific conditions that are worsened by constant noise and proximity to the open office. An example of this is misophonia, a high sensitivity to sound that provokes anger. It's more than just an aversion to unpleasant noises: sufferers of this condition have a huge reaction to certain triggering sounds, which can include breathing, eating, and rustling.
That is why the solution to these annoyances is usually noise-canceling headphones, which can temporarily solve the auditory intrusion. But even then, visual stimulus, whether the clutter on a small desk or Sam from accounting shuffling across the floor, will make it harder to focus and process information.
The brain is constantly bombarded with sensory information and it is possible to tune out much of it automatically, without even being aware of it.
Why is it important to manage noise at work?
Productivity is directly linked to noise
Too much sound can become, at best, an unwanted distraction and, at worst, completely detrimental to productivity. What's worse, the work can be completely uncomfortable for those affected by the sound.
Employee needs are different
People with hearing problems may have difficulty holding quieter conversations or listening to computer audio when the environment is noisy. Similarly, people with ADHD or trouble concentrating may find daily flow impossible when noise levels are too high. Other conditions such as epilepsy, panic disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder can even be triggered or inflamed in places that are too noisy.
Customers and partners will not be pleased
Phone calls with clients, meetings with partners or associates, and other business conversations could be interrupted or even impossible if there is too much background noise. What's worse, call participants may mishear or misinterpret what is being said if listening becomes difficult, affecting business opportunities and projects.
Think about the neighbors
When sharing walls with other offices, noise complaints can arise if meetings or creative sessions become too loud. While it's not necessary to soundproof the entire building, it's important to maintain positive relationships with neighbors and offer common courtesy. Addressing sound solutions within the workspace can help drown out some of the noise.
Employees should not have to work in a noisy environment all day. However, it's not practical to just demand more silence, as different teams need different levels of noise to work effectively. If the workspace is too noisy and is necessary to reduce noise without affecting the team, there are solutions available.
In the next blog entries, we will study how to reduce noise in the office with economical solutions.