As the world shifts to a hybrid working model with more open, shared spaces, controlling workplace ambient noise has become an issue for many businesses. Organisations are actively reducing their real estate footprint in the wake of the pandemic and the emergence of remote working. As a result, the shape of centralised workspaces has shifted to more open plan with huddle rooms to accommodate group video calls etc.
With open space comes open noise. Background noise can be very distracting (especially if you are hotdesking and normally work in a quiet home office), so it’s vital that companies look for ways to manage workplace ambient noise before it starts to affect productivity.
What is workplace ambient noise?
Workplace ambient noise refers to generalised noise that is present throughout a space (conversations, laughing, the whir of computers etc.). How that ambient noise flows around a space is dependent on the acoustic profile of the space. Open spaces, without noise reduction in place, are notoriously bad for acoustics making it difficult to separate sounds and keep your attention on the task in hand.
Every office has sound, but too much sound is not conducive to an efficient working environment. The constant sound of telephones, conversations, bursts of laughter and machines whirring can be incredibly distracting. Before you know it, a quick 20-minute task becomes an unproductive hour-long chore! Continued, intrusive noise is not only bad for productivity, but also for mental health. Unwanted and misplaced noise can also drastically affect morale.
At the extreme of the discomfort spectrum are people who suffer the rare condition Misophonia. Misophonia is a neurological disorder which manifests as negative reactions to certain sounds. It’s believed that most people tend to suffer from Misophonia on a small scale however, this condition can be debilitating for acute suffers.
Misophonia can be triggered by sounds that are repetitive, high pitched or sharp in frequency. It has been described as having feelings of anger, or disgust, and is often coupled with an emotional response ranging from rage to panic. The sounds that trigger a response can vary from person to person but some of the most common are eating, breathing, typing or pen clicking. All of which are hard to avoid when humans are sharing a space!
Controlling workplace ambient noise to increase productivity
Studies show that carefully considered, specific workplace ambient noise can actually increase productivity and lower stress levels. In any open plan office, it’s important to think about controlling workplace ambient noise and understanding the acoustic profile of the space. Congestion bottle necks, outside noise etc. Once the profile has been developed it’s possible to design an AV system that not only promotes noise suppression, but actively distributes the right type of noise to stimulate creativity and support concentration. Applying the correct ambient noise flattens and lowers speech volume levels creating a calmer, more productive workspace.
What is the correct acoustic solution to manage workplace ambient noise?
Answer … White Noise. White noise is a type of ambient noise that is made up of all the frequencies in the audible spectrum. This type of noise is often used to mask other sounds, making it easier for people to concentrate (block out the disruptive noise).
If you work in a busy office with lots of people talking and things going on all around you, then white noise might be just what the doctor ordered. White noise has been shown to reduce stress levels by restoring balance, blocking out distractions and helping workers to concentrate on their tasks.
Types of white noise.
There are various different types of white noise that can be used to create a positive environment. Some of the more commonly used white noise include:
· static noise
· ocean waves
· classical music
How does ambient noise affect productivity?
There is a lot of research that suggests that correct workplace ambient noise improves productivity. In fact, one study showed that workers who were exposed to white noise while working were able to concentrate for longer periods of time and made fewer mistakes than those who weren’t.
Using white noise within an office environment will help reduce distractions by masking noises coming from outside the perimeter of individual desks or communal areas; it also reduces distractions within the workplace by flattening and lowering speech volume levels. This in turn allows staff to concentrate, with fewer distractions and work for longer periods of time without losing focus. This gives employees a much greater sense of achievement and emotional well-being.
How can businesses achieve the perfect workplace acoustic profile?
Firstly, you need to map out the acoustic profile of the space. Then monitor how noise is distributed around the space. If you find that your space has a very negative profile it can easily be mitigated with the use of acoustic panels to dampen noise and stop spillage. Acoustic panels help absorb and deflect sound waves, in turn creating a more tranquil space.
Businesses should investigate installing ‘sound masking’ systems which work to create white noise (and can be used for tannoy messaging if needed); this is usually achieved by adding a low level of noise to a workplace by means of a series of ceiling mounted loudspeakers. Sound masking systems work by adding speech and environmental sounds into the white noise, making it easier for employees to focus on their work. Sound masking is designed to blend in with the frequency levels of human speech and will be pleasant to the ear, fading into the background of a work environment. Masking is an efficient way to reduce unwanted workplace ambient noise in a room while also creating a good acoustical balance and pleasant environment.
Strategic placement of sound-absorbing surfaces such as acoustic wall panels, ceiling tiles and soundproofing carpet can also contribute to achieving a calmer acoustic ambience. However, installing specific white noise ambient sound will be the best solution. There are many ways and products available for you to create specific acoustic workplace ambience.
Contact us today to see how we can help your workplace achieve increased productivity with bespoke acoustic ambience solutions and check out our recent projects to see how we have used sound, light and AV solutions to create amazing spaces.