There are places where you expect things to be noisy, such as a rock concert, and places where you expect it to be quiet, like an office. And while nobody likes being “shushed,” there are few things more annoying than trying to work when someone else is talking in the background.
The ‘80s music group ‘Til Tuesday said it best: “Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry.” An article in Human Resource Executive Online titled, “A Not-So-Quiet Little Problem: Noise!,” points out the current problem of modern, open offices—NOISE. When offices had doors, or at least cubicles, along with sound-absorbing carpeting and ceiling tiles, background noise wasn’t such a problem. Now, however, offices are wide open with nothing to block sound waves. Combine that with hardwood, or concrete floors, lots of glass and tall, echoing ceilings, and you’ve got the perfect storm for noise pollution.
Forward-thinking, or technology companies especially like open offices, and you can imagine what it sounds like with people talking on the phone, banging away at their keyboards, and conversing with each other. According to the article, nobody considers the acoustics of a room. They look at how beautiful, modern, and spacious it is. Then, once the room is filled with busy employees, the shock of its lack of tranquility sets in.
Employees become distracted by the noise, which in turn leads to reduced productivity. You can tell a lot about the noise level of an office by how many employees are wearing headphones. For workers to feel “healthy” at work, noise is a major factor, along with air quality and temperature.
There are many ways to fix a noisy office if you follow the A, B, Cs—absorb, block, cover. Materials can be placed to absorb noise, walls or furniture can be positioned to block noise, and there are electronic devices that use counter-measures to cover noise. The industry, office layout, and other factors will influence the choice of the best solution to mitigate noise. One thing is certain: when choosing a new office, or remodeling an existing one, it’s best to factor in a room’s acoustics along with its aesthetics.