Having a productive business is an essential part of being successful and yet many business owners are reporting that despite focusing on improving their working environments, many employees are struggling with a new type of strain – excessive noise levels.
Open plan areas lend themselves well to collaboration and social inclusion, but these interactions also increase the noise levels and sound reverberations. This high level of noise has a negative impact on employees’ wellbeing and the productivity of a business. To get the most from individuals, employers need to consider whether the acoustics in their buildings work for employee wellbeing or against them.
How Acoustics Affect Employee Wellbeing
There have been many studies completed that consider the impact of noise on employee wellbeing. When you consider that over 50% of UK businesses operate with an open plan layout, it not surprising that businesses are now looking for information on how to reduce noise to improve outcomes.
Some of the most common side effects of excessive noise are a workforce that cannot retain information that is pertinent to their jobs, who cannot concentrate and who can see a reduction in the quality of the work they are submitting. Employees also note that increased noise levels have a major impact on their stress levels and energy levels, meaning that they are more likely to be off work or even move jobs.
What Are the Right Noise Levels?
The Department of the Environment has issued guidance that says an average office will generate noise levels of around 54 decibels (dB). This number is significantly higher than the recommended 45 dB.
Interestingly, although it is clear that noise levels have a very specific impact on employees, there is very little in place to regulate this area. This means that businesses are largely responsible for sorting their noise levels and addressing their impact on their business. It is also important to note that the UK Building Regulations do not provide any specific commercial buildings requirements, meaning that buildings can be erected with only a basic consideration for acoustic protection between floors.
Choosing the Right Products
Working out which products to install to reduce noise levels requires consideration into cost, availability and ease of installation, and finding the right products for the environment itself. To find the right products, businesses will need to choose ones that do the following jobs:
- Absorb sound
- Block noise
- Cover the area
By focusing on these areas, appropriate soundproofing will be achieved. The most common sound absorbers are acoustic panels that come in a wide variety of colours and can be installed on walls and ceilings, fitting in with the current décor.
To block noise, there are soundproofing partitions that can be purchased as standalone items or can be installed against walls and windows to block out noises.
Covering up the noise level can be as simple as playing another type of low-level sound, such as music, to help take the focus away from conversations or other noises.
By using a combination of these three solutions, businesses can retain an open plan, collaborative area while maintaining employee wellbeing and improving productivity.