Struggling with ambient noise? You may need to re-evaluate your acoustics, writes DOMINIQUE LYONE.
Have you ever been in a workplace where it’s so loud you can’t even hear yourself think? It’s a growing issue as more businesses embrace open plan working environments.
Open plan offices are designed to increase collaboration among employees, while also promoting active movement around the office and flexible working options. However, businesses that don’t think about employee needs during the design phase can often trigger the opposite effect. For instance, increased employee movement can result in frequent noise disturbances if not planned appropriately.
There are many acoustic strategies that can be implemented to reduce this problem. Here are five ways businesses can use acoustic techniques to reduce the incidence of noise problems in their office space.
These can go a long way in reducing sound issues if they are used strategically in the space. Freestanding screens are an optimal choice that can suit just about any workplace’s needs due to their variation in sizes and colours.
Mobile walls could also be a suitable investment. Mobile walls are fitted with sound-reducing material, and have the added benefit of being easily movable – a great option to have for workplaces that may need to adjust their space for additional staff or to better accommodate agile working.
Providing employees with noise-cancelling headphones is not only a great way to combat acoustic problems, but it also can help them focus on completing their tasks by removing distractions.
Additionally, the presence of headphones makes it clear to other employees when someone is immersed in their work, which can reduce the likelihood of them being interrupted. A study published by the University of California at Irvine detailed the cost of interrupted work, revealing that it can often lead to stress, frustration and pressure due to a loss of time. Think about giving your employees the ability to block out the rest of the world and dedicate themselves to their work.
There is a wide range of headphones and headsets available to block out external noise to a person on the other end of a call, or employees around you, making them perfect for the bustling office environment.
Sometimes it can be difficult to completely remove acoustic issues in the workplace, especially if it’s open plan. In these cases, businesses could look towards providing employees with private spaces where they can go to during extended phone calls, personal matters or when they need to focus to meet a deadline.
These spaces must be soundproofed in order to prevent noise from travelling across the office and distracting employees. Soundproofing the walls or ceiling in the space also prevents the risk of confidential information and private conversations from being overheard. In doing so, not only are you reducing the travel of sound, but you are also providing spaces for staff to engage in focused work.
The overall design of your workplace can play a large role in determining the strength of noise problems that may be present. If your workplace features polished concrete floors, it’s likely that this will play a role in increasing workplace noise, especially if you have moved towards an agile environment.
In situations like these, think about whether the edgy industrial look provided by concrete floors is worth it. If it isn’t, you could look at alternative choices, such as carpeted or vinyl floors. These two surfaces are more effective at absorbing sound than concrete, ceramic or natural wood finishes. Because of this, you’re bound to notice a difference in noise levels when your employees are moving around the office in search of their next workstation.
MOVE TO AGILE WORKING
On days where employees need to get focused work completed, sometimes the noise in the office can be too distracting. For these occasions, you should look towards implementing an agile workplace, and even letting your employees work from home or at their local café, so they can concentrate and get as much work done without having to worry about any office distractions.
To make sure this runs smoothly, your employees must have access to the right technology. For instance, do they have laptops that can be used at home and are they compatible with the work that needs to be completed? Additionally, do they have the equipment to move them safely?
It’s difficult for a business to fix noise problems in their workplace entirely, but with careful consideration of the acoustic elements of an agile working space, you can achieve a significant reduction in the number of noise disturbances that will take place within your office.
Dominique Lyone is founder and managing director of COS Working Spaces.
This article also appears in the February/March issue of Facility Management magazine.
Image: 123RF’s Galina Peshkova © 123RF.com