The reality is that office life now tends to mean one of two extremes for most people. Either sitting in a noisy open plan environment or putting on a set of headphones and completely disconnecting from the environment we’re sitting in.
According to research poor acoustics negatively affect employees’ productivity, stress levels and morale. Prominent architects, Gensler found in a recent study that 53% of workers were regularly distracted by others when trying to focus. Many workers feel that the work environment is too noisy and they can’t concentrate, and in today’s increasingly open plan workplace, this recurring problem needs to be addressed.
Workplace design is a complex process. Workplace acoustics is one aspect of the process that is frequently overlooked and regularly a major reason for disappointment.
Designing with acoustics in mind
We are experts in creating effective and innovate workspaces to ensure that your staff can work efficiently wherever they are. Office furniture plays a key role in acoustics with high back sofas breaking up noise transfer in open plan work spaces, providing more privacy and restricting the likelihood of outside sound during intimate meetings.
Most offices work best at 50-60 decibels, but even when a noise is kept at this level it can still be distracting. There are three solutions, absorption, blocking and covering, that when used in conjunction with each other, should result in a perfect working environment.
Absorption – here some of the sound is absorbed instead of being bounced off the walls and ceilings and can be adapted depending on the work space your in. e.g. a call centre would need lots of absorption, but a university research department probably wouldn’t.
It can be achieved using wall panels that can be printed with graphics or designed using fabrics and colours that fit your business aesthetic. Ceiling islands can also be installed above areas that are particularly noisy, such as meeting rooms, breakout spaces, or reception desks.
Blocking – this is the easiest and most obvious way of fixing acoustics in your space. It is as simple as it sounds – you block the sound from moving through the air by installing a physical obstacle such as a desk screen barrier blocking conversation from the person opposite. Without these, the speaker affects everyone in a 24 metre radius.
Another option is acoustic pods for meetings or conference calls, that have acoustically-rated glass and walls to enable private conversations and provide a quiet place for work.
Covering – also know as ‘noise masking’ this can take the form of several different things. In its most basic form, it involves adding sound energy into the space to a level that is comfortable, without being intrusive.
The results from acoustic solutions can be quite dramatic. In open-plan spaces, acoustic screens and walls mean fewer interruptions and therefore increased productivity. Employees no longer need to raise their voices to compete with each other (known as Lombard Syndrome), which helps keep noise at a comfortable level throughout the day. In closed spaces, sound masking guarantees confidentiality where necessary, but provides excellent flexibility and allows staff to adapt more easily to changing demands.
Introducing acoustic solutions can be daunting, and it may seem like lots of work, but changes can be made to an existing space or installed in a new one, so that your company can provide netter ways of working for your employees, as well as increasing overall productivity.