Managing Your Office Acoustics
Acoustics is the term given to the science that defines the production and transmission of sound and sound waves. Mention the word acoustics and most people will immediately think of musical sounds, such as the sound of a singing voice in the bathroom or the sound of a band playing on stage.
However it can also mean the characteristics, design and layout of a room in terms of how sound is conducted within it. Modern office design is done with this in mind because the way that sound is conducted within a room and throughout a building can affect the way people live or work; in some cases it can be said that the acoustics are so bad that it is detrimental to health and production.
How Can Acoustics Affect Productivity?
One of the primary aims of employers today is to improve productivity and morale amongst their employees. After all, a motivated and productive workforce is one that drives the company forward and ultimately increases profits. To this end, the design and layout of a workplace is key to achieving this aim. Careful thought is given to issues like temperature, access to natural light, ergonomics and so on; one of the most important issues though is noise control. It is well known that certain types of noise can be unacceptable and distracting. In some cases excessive noise can lead to stress and illness.
Depending on the type of work being carried out a little noise can be a welcome motivator but very complex tasks need a degree of concentration in order to succeed and noise interruption can have a negative effect. Here, the right office acoustics is essential in order to aid concentration and accuracy as well as preventing distraction that could lead to a dip in productivity. Research has shown that, once distracted by noise, a worker can take some 15 minutes to fully regain their concentration and resume their task. Another instance where excessive or inappropriate noise levels can affect productivity is where confidentiality is required, for instance dealing with sensitive issues over the phone. An employee cannot give their full attention or treat the issue with the necessary sensitivity if they’re having to strain to hear the conversation and having to shout to make themselves heard.
How Can You Change the Acoustics in Your Office?
Open plan office design is undoubtedly the worst for acoustics with a jumble of sound bouncing all around the room and becoming a cacophony. Workers who are carrying out complex or sensitive tasks have to compete with those who aren’t, creating a mish-mash of sound levels. The first thing you can do is to separate out different groups of colleagues so that the noisier ones are put together away from those who need to be quieter. It is not possible, nor desirable to completely eliminate all sounds however there are tried and tested solutions which can be incorporated into your office design to reduce noise distraction. These can be summed up in three words: absorption, blocking and covering.
Absorption deals with the design of the fabric of the room such as the ceiling, walls and floor coverings. Seating and desk-mounted screens made from sound-absorbing materials can be utilised to allow greater privacy of speech.
Blocking is used to literally block and break up the transfer of sound from area to area and this can be achieved with vertical barrier screens; very useful in offices where suspended ceilings have been removed. The simple act of rearranging furniture can go some way to blocking unwanted noise.
Covering is the cheapest way to reduce unwanted noise and simply involves using an audio system to mask and detract from noise pollution and replace it with a more pleasant sound.
Hopefully now you have more of an idea of the importance of office acoustics. What will you do to improve yours?