understanding the impact of a noisy office: how can you reduce noise in a work environment?

while architects focus on enticing workers back to the office with modern open space designs,

little attention is being paid to the effect of office noise; open plan offices can have a major impact on worker productivity and health. Over half of workers say their office is too noisy, and the impact is two-fold – not only is it distracting for employees, it’s also damaging for their health.

Around a million British employees are regularly exposed to noise levels that put their hearing at risk and over 14,000 have work-related hearing problems. The effects of excess noise aren’t limited to hearing damage; too much noise, too often, can impact our stress levels leading to spikes in heart rate and blood pressure. Thankfully, there are ways you can reduce noise in your office without compromising on design.

the impact of a noisy office on employee health and productivity

Before COVID, the Chief Medical Officer in England, Chris Whitty, went so far as to describe noise pollution as second only to air pollution in the damage it does to public health. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), excess noise can contribute to hearing loss, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and heart attacks. Current UK regulations state that 87 decibels is the maximum level of noise that employees should be exposed to, which is only slightly louder than the dialling tone of a phone.

Although seemingly a harmless irritation, excess noise has the potential to impact our mood, behaviour and even our health. The cacophony created by typical office sounds – chatting, printers, keyboards – is further amplified in an open space, resulting in a stressful and noisy working environment.

Our latest Whitepaper suggests that more than half of workers say their office is too loud; 65% believe that noisy workplaces prevent them from completing their work in an accurate and timely manner. The volume of background noise in a typical open-plan office makes concentration virtually impossible, resulting in office workers reporting feeling 66% less productive compared to when they’re on their own.

acoustic solutions for offices

There’s no hard-and-fast rule concerning how much noise an employee is able to work in without impediment – different people have different tolerance levels. It also means there’s no single solution to blocking out loud distractions. Earphone-fed music might allow some to focus on their tasks, but music can often be just as distracting as background noise.

The WHO estimates that excess noise levels cost EU businesses up to £30 billion every year from lost working days, healthcare costs and reduced productivity. Our latest Whitepaper – Noise Annoys, explores the role that office acoustics can play in fixing this problem.

Facilitating maximum productivity in the workplace requires serious thought about office acoustics, and how the detrimental impacts of sound can be minimised while maintaining the collaborative benefits of open-plan offices.

By paying careful attention to design, excess noise can be reduced without resorting to library rules. Oscar Acoustics’ SonaSpray range of decorative, sound-absorbing sprays reduces reverberation and enhances acoustics in office spaces.

By designing out sound and lessening its costly effects on worker efficiency and health, SonaSpray provides a cost effective way to reduce noise, boost productivity and protect workers’ health. As well as being applicable to most substrates, it’s also versatile enough to allow designers to achieve shapes and curves without negatively impacting aesthetics, and is typically quicker and more cost-effective to apply than stick-on panel alternatives.

Without compromising design, SonaSpray turns the office from a distracting atmosphere into a calm, welcoming atmosphere that supports productivity and employee welfare.

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Trust the acoustic specialists at Oscar Acoustics to help you find the right solution for your next project.