A recent study has revealed that office noise is hampering the productivity of businesses and costing the UK economy millions. The research found that noise pollution is particularly problematic in large open-plan offices and that a significant number of workers are being driven out of the office due to excessive noise levels.
The study was compiled by the Avanta Group and polled 1,000 office workers throughout the UK. It found that 82.7% of the participants reported being regularly distracted by noise in the office environment.
In large open-plan offices, such as call centres, the problem was even worse, with noise impacting on seven out of ten workers. 31% of those involved in the poll admitted to having left the office to work from home or in a nearby café because loud noise prevented them to be effective at their job.
The study also unveiled that the three most irritating office noises in the UK are conversations and gossip, loud phone voices, coughing, sneezing and sniffing.
Office noise: solutions
Talking about how noisy offices could be made quieter to improve staff morale and workforce productivity, Julian Treasure, Chairman of The Sound Agency, said: “Noisy workspace may need damping down to an ideal level of 45 – 55dB (decibels), while very quiet spaces may need masking to create some privacy and reduce distraction when colleagues take calls or converse.”
With as many as eight out of ten office workers reporting they are regularly disturbed by noise at work, noise distraction and intrusion, according to the report, can cut productivity by up to 66 percent.
Whilst telling employees with loud voices to quieten down constantly or preventing the phone from ringing may not be practicable in an open-plan office or a call centre, solutions can be found to help make offices quieter environments.
Taking an active stance on reducing noise in the office
As we wrote in an earlier blog, taking an active stance on assessing and controlling office noise could help improve staff morale, enable employees to concentrate better and, ultimately, help increase overall productivity.
Carrying out regular basic noise assessments of the office will give you a clearer picture of how loud the noise levels really are and whether you need to take further action.
In order to assess the noise levels in an office, use quality sound measurement devices and aim to ensure workers’ are safeguarded from constant and excessive noise levels.
The noise measurement devices should be used in different locations in the office to determine which areas are the most problematic.
If you opt for a data logging device, any data you capture can then be downloaded, analysed and acted upon to create a quieter and more efficient working environment. For example, the office could be re-arranged so that the ‘noisier’ departments are spread out and the noise is more evenly distributed. Alternatively, if certain office equipment, such as photocopiers, fans or computers are faulty, old and noisy, consider replacing them with quieter alternatives.
Installing a wall-mounted noise-activated warning system can be an effective way to control and reduce noise levels in real time in an office or a call centre.
The PulsarSafeEar for example mounts to a wall and flashes a visual alert each time office noise exceeds a certain level. Ensuring colleagues are aware of the noise-activated device can be an effective and subtle way to help ‘louder’ colleagues keep the noise down when the office’s volume starts to rise too high.