How to reduce noise in the office

The average South African workplace is a noisy environment. Not quite like a Motorhead concert (reportedly weighing in at a whopping 130 decibels), but let’s face it, any office worker is faced with barrage of sounds. If it’s not photocopiers, printers or faxes, it’s a cacophony of co-workers with their raucous ringtones and cell phones pinging.

It’s worth taking note of, and reducing noise in your work environment because, although noise levels in the office are unlikely to get above the 85 decibel-level (when protective gear is all that prevents hearing loss), a prolonged barrage of grey noise is stress inducing, reduces motivation and is ultimately counterproductive in the workplace.

The downside of the office cubicle

There is a certain irony that the ubiquitous office cubicle designed in the 50s in Hamburg to enhance social cohesion, team building and creative thinking has done so much to establish the image of a modern office, bustling with innovation and uniquely adapted to the cut and thrust of the business world. However, it has also allowed a noisy office environment and basic lack of privacy to flourish. Continuous distractions and repetitive noise has become an impediment to office productivity. No sooner have you helped a co-worker with a problem, than you are confronted with trying to pick up the thread of where you were.

Studies in Europe have revealed that participants who requested help with a task performed better, while those who supplied the assistance performed worse. Studies have also shown that noise has been repeatedly linked to reduced performance on cognitive tasks.  The result of this is that as our senses become overloaded, we become stressed and we require even more work to achieve a given result. Thus the mainstay of South African business acumen, the internationally heralded ‘South African work ethic’ becomes tarnished and productivity suffers. The modern workplace is colourful and noisy and there’s nothing we can do to stop it – or is there?

5 ways to reduce office noise

1.Use  earphones

A good set of earphones can block out audible distractions and focus the mind. They’re an easy way to block out idle office chatter and sticking them in sends a powerful signal to colleagues that you are keen to get back to business.  We recommend tranquil, calming music.

2.Take a breather

If your office space allows it and before you end up saying or doing something that might compromise your longevity in the company, take a short walk somewhere that soothes the mind and allows you to focus once again on your work.

3.Noise masking

If, at the critical moment, you just cannot conjure up yogis chanting mantras in a Zen-like environment, it is possible to put a damper on incessant chatter and the relentless accumulation of noise in an office by noise masking. This relies upon the fact that auditory signals are most easily absorbed by nearby sounds of a similar frequency. Noise masking software can be installed on a computer to confound unwanted conversations with a smorgasbord of music, sounds from nature and intermittent bell-like sounds. Sophisticated sound masking systems can also be installed in the ceilings which operate in a similar subliminal fashion to the sound-absorbing qualities of an air conditioner.

4.Rework office policy on noise reduction

If yet another chest-thumping account of the Bulls super rugby prospects by a colleague starts to intrude, then perhaps it’s time to reset the guidelines for noise in the office. Work noise reduction into next meeting’s agenda and set out office policy to reduce noise in a non-threatening and non-blaming way.

5.Office ergonomics

Ultimately, your office furniture speaks volumes about your commitment to reducing noise in the workplace. Good office furniture and equipment should be designed with human social interaction and good business practices in mind.  We are firmly of the opinion that the specific nature of one’s work should inform decisions about space. By shaping our office furniture and workplace around your company’s needs, we provide what your employees need to be healthy, productive, and engaged in a work environment where everyone can thrive. At My Office Furniture, we supply furniture that is designed to provide perfect support to the people who use it, so the real focus can be on the main reason they’re there – your business.

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