Office noise

Today’s office layout trends are all about creating convenience and encouraging collaboration, but there is one key factor most people overlook when planning their office layout: what about the office noise ?

Yes, the positioning of your office furniture within the available space can influence productivity, but not only for the obvious reasons.  Recent research reveals that office layout may contribute to the output of your staff as much as the quality and ergonomic design of the furniture itself.

A study to determine the effects of the office environment on productivity, conducted and published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, reveals three key contributing factors, namely:

  • noise levels
  • design of work spaces
  • type of lighting

Have you ever stopped to listen?

Office noise  came out on top as the number 1 cause of low production and lack of concentration. The reason we are unable to control the noise around us is often the open plan work environment that has become so popular. Whilst the open workroom is designed for collaboration, the constant buzz of noise can cause stress and that impacts production. Some of the culprits include:

  • collaborations are taking place near other workers;
  • phone calls coming in and going out;
  • the general chit -chat all day long;
  • the constant movement of other workers; or
  • background music that some prefer but others do not.


The ideal work station

Imagine a private office that blocks noise, with glass walls overlooking the office on the interior side and large windows with a view of nature on the exterior side. Few South African office workers are likely to attain such a quiet and private space. However, there are measures that can be taken to keep noise levels to a minimum in an open work environment.


10 Tips to kill the noise  

Since open floor plans are becoming more common in South Africa, we need solutions to keep noise from raising stress levels and killing productivity. Try these:


  1. Start with the floor. Padded carpeting or durable vinyl with a rubber undercoating absorbs room noise far better than hardwood or tile. Choose whichever works best for your office setting. Bear in mind that vinyl is easier to clean.


  1. Some use headphones to cancel out noise or to replace the noise with their preferred music. Not everyone can concentrate with music in the background, while others swear music improves their focus. Either way, if you have to wear headphones it is worth the effort to find a well-fitting and comfortable design.


  1. An excellent solution to effectively minimise noise is acoustic wall panels that absorb sound. While such panels have been more functional than decorative in the past, modern and very attractive new designs are now available.


  1. A good idea for those building new offices or retrofitting an old space is to add new wall insulation. It will be a tremendous help with noise absorption.


  1. Did you know that plants absorb noise? They do!  Add many plants, as large as is suitable throughout your office space.


  1. Cubicles or desk partitions work well to lower the noise level and provide a bit of privacy for each employee. If you have not checked out partitions in a while, you will find some newer styles and designs.


  1. Separate the collaborative work areas from the individual desk areas. High partitions provide a noise barrier. Actually, anything can serve as a sound barrier between work stations. For instance, seating areas made up of soft upholstered couches  and chairs or book shelves and filing cabinets.


  1. Playing background nature sounds, which acts as “white noise” has proven effective against other noise in an open office setting. Some people use music to block outside noise so they can sleep at night. Play a CD of birds with simple musical notes quietly in the background and it will help mask distracting noise.


  1. It is a good idea to have a dedicated quiet place. Unused conference rooms can work. Sometimes one person or small groups just need silence to work on a problem or idea. The need for dedicated quiet spaces in open office areas has proven so great that some offices build glass cubicles into their space.


  1. Put the room with the copy machines, mail boxes and office supplies in a separate room with a door that can be closed to keep noise contained.


We can lower office stress and fatigue by lowering the noise level.  With these tips, you can turn your South African office space into a relaxed and productive work place. Many of your office improvements can be accomplished through the strategic use of items and advice found at office furniture retailers.

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