Want to Reduce Noise in the Office? Improve Your Acoustics
Are all your employees begging to use headphones? Want to reduce noise in the office? Here’s how to improve your acoustics and your employee productivity.
Ambient noise in the workplace can provide a distraction and reduce productivity. Here’s how to ensure a quieter, more productive office when you’re in the design phase before it’s too late.
Loss of Productivity and the Need to Reduce Noise in the Office
Around 70 percent of employees working in open workspaces have complained that the factor hindering their productivity the most is ambient noise, specifically their coworkers’ conversations.
If people can overhear the conversation taking place in their proximity, it can easily distract them to the point of negatively impacting productivity. Certain studies have revealed that it can take as long as 20 minutes to recover the focus needed to successfully complete a task after the initial distraction. Even after regaining their concentration, errors can increase.
If you want to avoid a decrease in productivity and make sure your employees stay on track and in check, there are a couple of ways you can improve your office’s acoustics to prevent distractions and maintain focus in the workplace.
1. Acoustically Absorptive Materials
In addition to conversations, workers are surrounded by various ambient sounds from clicking keyboards and mouses to ringing phones, unmuted desktop or smartphone notifications, and many other noises that can redirect workers’ attention away from the tasks they need to get done. The sound can also reflect off various surfaces, amplifying them so that even workers relatively far from the original source can clearly hear the noise produced.
In many cases, employees overwhelmed by this ambient noise might find respite with headphones or even earplugs. However, using absorptive materials can help reduce the reflectiveness of noise and improve overall ambience. These materials can include acoustical wall panels, ceilings, or carpets, among others, but many of these such as recessed acoustical ceilings can be visually unappealing in their design.
Certain strategically placed acoustic absorptive material placement has allowed for some interesting concepts that add some aesthetic appeal while helping to reduce noise.
To make sure that noise is sufficiently reduced, it’s important to choose materials with a high Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC), which is a rating that shows how absorptive the material is regarding sound based on the percentage of sound that the surface absorbs. For instance, many acoustical ceiling tiles will have an NRC of around .50 or 50 percent, whereas a more soundproof surface would have an NRC of around 1 or 100 percent.
2. Sound Masking Systems
Businesses can also use sound masking systems that reduce the reach of conversation in the workplace. Also known as the “radius of distraction,” the distance between the distracted coworker and the employee(s) speaking will determine which type of sound masking system is needed.
In many workspaces, there may be no ambient noise at all, which can make even quiet conversations sound comparatively loud. Sound masking entails the use of slight background noise to help mask other noise, using speakers that produce noise that simply sounds like a gentle breeze or running water. Ideally, a sound masking system will use middle-frequency sounds as opposed to low- or high-frequency noises that tend to grab our attention. The result is a constant unwavering sound that helps neutralize other ambient sounds of varying frequencies and volumes. The key is achieving the right balance that keeps employees from acknowledging the sound.
Using these two acoustic concepts, you can more easily reduce noise in the office and increase productivity in the long-term.