04/30/2024 • 3 min read

Decrease Office Noise to Increase Productivity

Improved acoustics lead to healthier, engaged, and high-performing employees

by Haworth, Inc.

What sources of noise do you notice in your workplace? In-person conversations and phone calls are the top 2 sources of office noise. Add to that the sounds of mechanical equipment like printers and HVAC systems, ringtones, and text alerts, and suddenly, background noise becomes a significant distraction. This distraction leads to stress and reduced productivity.

Workplaces that manage noise levels can significantly improve employee well-being and productivity.

How Noise Affects Well-being, Satisfaction, and Productivity

The impact of workplace noise goes beyond annoyance. It negatively affects cardiovascular and mental health, as well as cognitive tasks like reading comprehension and proofreading.

Noise also plays a major role in employees’ satisfaction with their workplace environment. One study of 50,000 workers in 351 buildings revealed that the lack of speech privacy—a key contributor to noise—was the single greatest source of dissatisfaction.

Almost 30% of those in private offices identify acoustics as an element that interferes with their ability to perform their jobs. Another study shows that 70% of employees are distracted by office noise.

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The ABCD of Controlling Noise

Haworth researchers have identified 4 design tools—the ABCD—of acoustical design:

  • Absorb sounds within the space with highly absorptive ceilings and carpeted floors.
  • Block sounds between spaces by using demountable or unitized wall systems and suspended ceiling tiles.
  • Cover intruding sounds with background sound like an electronic sound masking system.
  • Diffuse sound energy evenly in a space with sound-dispersing elements on walls or ceilings.

The application of the ABCD tools results in the appropriate privacy level for the space's purpose and the impact it can have on surrounding areas.

You can make changes to any environment to minimize distractions. Our free-standing acoustic pods accommodate individuals or small groups of up to 4 people. They not only offer quiet spaces for focused work, but also effectively eliminate distractions from the open work area.

Adopting a Culture of Quiet

Designing workspaces with attention to acoustics is a crucial way to control noise. Another approach is establishing a culture that values quiet—or at least quieter—behavior. Some organizations designate hours of the day as quiet times and certain spaces as quiet zones. Since 77% of employees prefer quiet when focus is needed, adopting a culture of quiet will likely foster innovation.

Improve Employee Satisfaction with Improved Acoustics

The ideal acoustic environment balances audio input so people hear the sounds they want while other sounds are filtered out—all at the right times and places.
Our research shows that improved acoustics lead to healthier, engaged, and high-performing employees.

A thoughtful acoustics plan can:

  • Eliminate conversational distractions by 51%
  • Reduce employee stress by 27%
  • Lower work errors by 10%
  • Improve worker concentration by 48%

Investing in acoustical elements for office noise control not only enhances employee well-being and productivity but also contributes to a more conducive work environment. Whether through installing sound-absorbing panels or establishing quiet zones, taking steps to control workplace noise has benefits. Consider incorporating these strategies into your workplace to create a more focused and productive atmosphere.

More on Acoustic Solutions

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