The impact of noise in the workplace
It affects everyone in different ways
Detailed research carried out by Ipsos and Steelcase found that a staggering 85% of employees are currently unhappy with their work environment and find it difficult to concentrate there. This helps to show how important a good office interior design can be to the performance of employees and your business as a whole.
While there are many issues that can frustrate workers, one of the most frequently cited issues is noise and it is becoming increasingly clear that many organisations need to act on this. Here, we take a closer look at the impact noise can have in the workplace and exactly why eliminating unnecessary sound should be a top priority.
From a pure business perspective, one of the biggest reasons why you should be concerned with noise in your workplace is its impact on productivity. In fact, Julian Treasure, Chairman of The Sound Agency, states that the productivity of an employee can drop by 66% simply from being exposed to one nearby conversation.
Meanwhile, according to Steelcase, the average employee is distracted every 11 minutes and then takes 23 minutes to return back to a state in which they are deeply engaged in their work. NPR also cite additional research from Alan Hedge at Cornell, who found that 74% of workers face "many" noise distractions.
"Continual disruption can cause a downturn in productivity," says Beth Rifkin, writing for Chon. "Constant interruptions can lead to an inability to focus...and workers may have difficulty talking with clients or customers."
The Harvard Business Review reports that sound privacy ranks as the single biggest frustration employees have with their work environments, and it is a particular problem in cubicle and open plan designs. This is problematic, because 74% of office workers work in open plan offices, according to Oxford Economics.
Such evidence only serves to highlight the importance of intelligent office space planning. By contrast, among those with access to an enclosed office space, sound privacy is ranked as a less important concern than comfort issues like the temperature, while noise level ranks behind air quality in the list of frustrations.
Clearly, in most offices, not all employees can be given private, enclosed workspace. However, 58% of high-performance workers say they need more quiet spaces, so one possible solution is to set a room aside as a dedicated quiet area, where conversations, music and other noise distractions are not permitted.
Health and Well-Being
Finally and perhaps most worryingly of all, noise in the workplace can have a detrimental effect on employees' health and well-being. A study carried out by researchers at the University of Erlangen found that even intermittent exposure to loud noises can elevate blood pressure and stress hormone levels in the long-term.
Furthermore, according to an article published by Chron, noise in the workplace has been linked with a variety of serious physical and mental health complications, including heart disease and depression. A 2014 survey from Canada Life found that employees in open offices took an average of 70% more sick days.
"Scientists are in agreement that exposure to excessive noise levels stimulates our nervous system – raising blood pressure and releasing stress hormones," says Jeremy Luscombe, writing for Resonics. "Prolonged exposure to moderate noise levels can even lead to hearing damage and loss."
Reno is the founder and director of Enigma Visual Solutions, a leading office interior design and office fit-out Company in London, specialising in retail designs, graphic productions, signage systems, office refurbishment, event branding, office interior design services and much more. Feel free to follow him on twitter.