Look who’s talking...

02 Dec 2019

The chap the other side of the room shouting at NatWest down the phone. The faulty fan. The two girls from accounts gossiping in the corner about their weekends. The intern's headphones leaking drum and bass. Your colleague tapping their fingers on their desk. Continually. The sales guy crunching through a packet of Doritos. In your ear.

Noise at work is a major issue. The typical noise level in an open plan office is 65dB, only 30 dB less than a lawnmower. And background noise, even at low levels, has been found to increase stress levels and undermine short-term memory, reading comprehension and willingness to engage with others. According to Leesman, the world’s largest measurement of workplace effectiveness, just 30 per cent of us are happy with the noise levels in our workplace. Noise at work contributes to stress, absenteeism, staff turnover and low productivity.

The major concerns when it comes to sound are lack of control, lack of privacy and disruption from other people. Research shows that consistent sounds, such as a fan, are less irritating that inconsistent sounds, like a colleague’s heel tapping. And we also have different attitudes to different sounds – an ambulance siren at 5am might elicit sympathy even though it’s woken us up. But a drill in the middle of a relaxing Sunday afternoon can enrage us. And it doesn’t necessarily matter how loud it is. A dripping tap is a low level of sound but if you're trying to sleep it can be very annoying.

So how can we manage sound better at work? Good acoustic design can enhance communication between teams, reduce disturbance from unwanted speech, improve speech privacy for private phone calls and supports employees on complex, concentrated tasks.

Managing sound is about displacing, avoiding and reducing its impact. And acoustic panels can help. But it’s also about education. Talking to people about the impact of unwanted sound and educating them to use break-out areas, or small rooms for confidential discussions (of the banking or gossiping variety) is a starting point. Giving people the language and confidence to ask someone to stop munching, tapping or shouting is a big help in creating more acoustically-sound environments that really work for everyone.

Want to talk about how our acoustic panels could help you? Get in touch or check out our products

Back to top ^