Acoustics and the Workplace

12 May 2014

Noise is normally defined as a sound which is unpleasant and/or a disturbance.  In a modern office environment, noise can not only have an adverse affect on performance and productivity, but can also affect the health and safety of your staff.  

Particularly now in the 21st century, with an emphasis on open plan office design, the working environment has evolved to create a platform of communication, flexibility and teamwork.  But with all the advantages of open plan design, factors such as noise, can still affect your staff wellbeing and performance.

Varying levels of noise can affect communication, concentration, performance and productivity.  In addition to this, noise can contribute to stress and illness, affecting your staffs’ mental wellbeing, which can, if not dealt with appropriately, lead to high levels of absenteeism.

Key Considerations

  1. How noise can affect your staff?
  2. The science of acoustics
  3. Why acoustic privacy is important?
  4. The ABC's of office acoustics
    1. Absorption
    2. Blocking
    3. Cover
  5. Your needs, Our solutions

1. How noise can affect your staff

Distractions in the office will affect concentration, which in turn affects staff performance and productivity.  Noise is also one of the leading factors contributing to increased levels of stress, low morale and poor employee satisfaction.

Creating an effective acoustic environment will reduce the levels of noise within an office space, and create a better working environment for your staff.

When a sound is created in the office i.e.. a telephone ringing or staff communicating with each other, it travels until it reaches a surface.  Once it reaches, for example, a wall or ceiling, part of the sound is absorbed by the surface and part is reflected back into the room.  The reflected sound then continues to travel until it reaches another surface, in which case it is reflected again.

2. The Science of Acoustics

‘The build up, or persistence, of reflective sounds is known as sound reverberation.  When designing an open plan office, architects and designers focus on reducing the level of reverberation.  Reducing these levels within an environment, through the use of sound absorbing materials applied to office walls, ceilings and floors, while also utilising acoustic screens to block traveling sound, is known as creating a state of acoustic privacy.’

3. Why acoustic privacy is important
Particularly with open plan office design, privacy is one of the most significant factors affecting staff performance.  Providing your staff with an individual work area can only do so much, as noise penetration will still remain a problem. 

Ensuring acoustic privacy, by reducing the levels of noise disturbance i.e.. distracting conversations, office equipment, telephone calls, can significantly decrease the level of noise distraction, this leads to an increase in employee focus, task completion, productivity and overall performance.

4. The ABC’s of office acoustics
The best way to achieve an effective acoustic environment is through a carefully balanced combination of absorption, blocking and cover techniques. This is called the ABC’s of acoustics and it forms the basis of reducing sound reverberation, creating a more comfortable working environment.

Absorptive materials and surfaces in the work place are designed to reduce the amount of reflection caused when a sound interacts with the material.  This can be applied with the use of floor coverings, acoustic ceilings and soft furnishings.  The use of these materials lowers the levels of ambient noise in the office, thus creating a more comfortable environment.

Blocking normally occurs between open plan workstations with the use of acoustic screens.  The acoustic screen will normally be placed between two workstations at a suitable height, creating a barrier that effectively blocks sound from traveling past, offering a degree of privacy for the workstation opposite you.

The covering technique involves introducing an artificial low-level background noise into a particular area with the use of sound masking.  Sound masking involves placing audio speakers into various areas of the office, which provide a steady ambient low-level noise that covers other noise disturbance, adding additional acoustic privacy.

5. Your needs, Our solutions
At Office Interior Solutions, we offer a wide range of acoustic privacy solutions which can be tailored to fit your needs and requirements.  All our partitioning systems are designed to maximise the acoustic performance required in your office, with our range including single / double glazing and solid partitions.

For increased acoustic privacy, sound masking systems can be used to provide low-level background noise within areas (such as meeting rooms) where confidential conversations may take place.

At Office Interior Solutions, we will provide you with professional advice and guidance, and offer solutions that will meet all your business needs and budgetary requirements. 

Call us on +44 (0) 2890 770019