How many times have you heard “I can’t hear myself think” and how many unhappy employees are just itching to escape the deafening noise of their office? How many are applying for other jobs in swankier spacious offices where they’re not penned in a noisy space elbow-to-elbow, nose-to-nose? The working world currently has a love hate relationship with open plan offices, most of which centres around noise.
Surveys show that open plan workplaces are damaging to people’s health.
“Noise is the primary cause of reduction in productivity and can contribute to stress and illness which can also contribute to absenteeism and turnover of staff” (Abbott, 2004)
The typical noise level in an open plan office is 65 dB and shockingly that’s only 30 dB less than a lawnmower!
And background noise, even at low levels, has been found to increase stress levels and undermine short-term memory, reading comprehension and willingness to engage with others.
Workers have been seen to be 60% less productive in a noisy office – which is a worrying statistic to any business owner.
A study by Jensen et al. which analysed acoustic satisfaction in offices in buildings surveyed by Center for the Built Environment (CBE). A total of 23,450 respondents from 142 buildings were included in the analysis. Of those working in open offices, over 40% indicated acoustic quality interfered with their ability to do their job effectively. Of those, 64% were dissatisfied with people talking on the phone and 76% were dissatisfied with others overhearing their private conversations.
So, we all need to work in silent spaces, right? Well not necessarily.
The open plan office concept is highly successful for several reasons. It’s cost effective, allows room for expansion and changing team dynamics, creates more working collaboration, reducing the need for separate meetings. Most importantly, it creates a ‘buzzy atmosphere’ (which Millennials are reported to crave), enhancing the office culture and enjoyment at work. Happy workers are 12% more productive. Every business wants more happy workers as they influence an organisation’s success and performance.
So, here’s the conundrum - the open plan concept is the right solution for increasing engagement and creating happier more productive employees, but the noise by-product affects individuals, driving them to grab their headphones and retreat into their own world, or even work from home.
So, what’s the solution, and how do we find a happy medium? Soundtect says “It’s time to deploy the ABCs!”
No, they’re not sending you back to school – ABC simply stands for Absorb, Block and Cover.
- Absorb – referring to acoustic ceiling tiles
- Block – using sound reducing partitions, walls or windows
- Cover – with active noise control.
The ABCs can be implemented in any office easily by replacing hard surface floors with softer materials such as carpet, natural fabrics and vinyl flooring. Introducing plants, sofas, soft seating and soft furnishings to create a ‘third space’ or breakout area. These all help minimise noise but don’t go far enough to reduce it significantly.
This is when you need the help of an acoustic specialist, such as leading manufacturer and supplier Soundtect.
Considering acoustics at the planning stage is essential when embarking on an office refurbishment; but they are often left out in favour of aesthetics and cost-saving strategies.
Soundtect, make it easy for you, offering a free on-site consultation service and work with architects, interior designers and space planners from the beginning - ensuring the right level of acoustic materials are specified and budgeted from the start.
Acoustic improvement products are no longer boring and hidden, they’ve become stylish, colourful and a prominent aspect of design. Available in many functional forms - meeting pods, partitions, and decorative forms such as wall panels and ceiling enhancements. Soundtect specialise in the manufacture and supply of a range of highly design led versatile custom panels tailored to be as funky as you like to complement any office design theme – aesthetic, cost efficient and ecologically friendly too!
While the damage plastics cause is a hot topic, Soundtect are proud of their environmental credentials – their products use over 50% recycled polyester. The panels are a third-generation product which began life first as a plastic PET bottle, and then as exhibition carpets before being woven into superior quality high performance acoustic felt.
In addition, this year Soundtech launched a new product range - Freestyle®. This is a lightweight, semi-rigid sound absorbing panel aimed at revolutionising the acoustic market. It contains 70% post-consumer recycled material, is non-allergenic, and comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, designs, colours. Best of all, it’s durable and easy to maintain – you simply vacuum it!
So, the solution is straight-forward; to improve the cognitive performance of your team in an open plan office environment - more consideration needs to be given t noise dynamics and how you can reduce them with effective acoustic solutions like Freestyle®.
In return everyone can enjoy their workplace to its full potential, creating happy and more productive employees.