As a business owner, it is vital to consider employee wellbeing so that you can get the best from your team. Office acoustics is one area that is frequently neglected in favour of open spaces and creative cohesion. However, by planning your office acoustics properly, you will not only have a better working environment, but you will have a healthier workforce.
The Importance of Office Acoustics
When it comes to providing a space where office workers can be productive, it is essential to consider the impact of sound. Unfortunately, the more modern the office, the less acoustics appear to be factored in, and this can cause significant issues for your team.
There has been a range of research conducted into employee wellbeing, and many of these studies state that noise is one of the most common complaints made by office workers. Excessive noise disrupts the work process and hinders your team from being able to deliver the highest quality work possible.
Leading acoustics consultants Nova Acoustics specifically monitor the speech intelligibility to ensure speech can only be heard in the immediate vicinity of the speaker (an excellent or good acoustic rating). A fair rating is classed as speech which can be heard in the general vicinity for example on a neighbouring desk. A poor rating refers to speech which can be heard over 5m away. And a bad rating means noise from a speaker can even be heard on other floors and in other rooms.
Different Types of Office Sound
You would be forgiven for believing that the main noise problem comes from other people talking, but there is a wide range of sounds that cause noise distress for employees. Some of the most common office sounds include:
- Movements of chairs and furniture.
- The sound of people moving around the space.
- Human noise, such as talking, coughing, and sneezing.
- Tech noises such as printers, typing and computer sounds.
- Telephones ringing.
These sounds can be categorised into three main sounds; direct sound, reflected sound and reverberation:
- Direct sound is any type of sound that happens directly, and that does not react with the office environment before it arrives in your ears.
- Reflected sound happens when the initial noise hits a surface and bounces back. This type of sounds can be hard to work out, especially when it is happening at the same time as a direct sound, thus causing employees to lose their concentration and become tired faster.
- Reverberation is the length of time it takes for a sound to stop being audible, and when there are multiple sounds reverberating, it can cause tiredness and even claustrophobic reactions in your employees.
How Do Acoustics Impact Creativity in the Office?
It is clear that sound can reduce the levels of productivity in your team, but it can also have a significant impact on their creativity too.
There have been many studies that have looked at how noise negatively impacts creativity, and the findings of a paper published by Mehta, Zhu and Cheema in 2012 showed that people who were exposed to mid-level noise of around 70 dB were the top performers against those that had been exposed to high levels of noise (85 dB) and low levels of noise (50 dB).
These results go to show that while employees do not need to work in silence, they do need the acoustic levels monitored to ensure they are at the optimum level for creativity.
How You Can Improve Your Office Acoustics
Rather than spending a lot of money to find solutions to noise levels in your office, try these tips to reduce noise and improve creative output:
- Consider how you arrange teams within the office space so that they can communicate with their team to the level that is appropriate for their work.
- Add in specific break out areas that are to be used as quiet spaces and meeting rooms.
- Offer a separate space for people to enjoy their lunch break away from their desks during the day.
- Use plants and other materials to absorb sounds.
- Put printers and copiers in a dedicated room rather than having them in the office.
- Add in partitions to reduce the space that noise can travel around.
If you are a business owner who cares about the wellbeing of your employees and who wants to increase creativity, consider the acoustics in your working environment, and see how small changes can have big results!
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