Noise pollution in the office and productivity : the challenge of open spaces
The health effects of noise pollution
It's not just an annoyance, though that's how it all starts.
Exposure to constant noise also has negative effects on health, of various kinds. Firstly, hearing problems, especially for people who spend most of their day on the phone.
In addition, according to a study by the University of Michigan (among others), there are problems linked to blood pressure and the cardiovascular system in general. The effect can be summed up as follows: noise irritates and stimulates the nervous system, which in turn releases cortisol (the so-called stress hormone) and speeds up the heart rate. The end result can range from circulatory problems to sleep disorders and recurrent headaches, among other issues.
And so we come to the psychological effect, which is closely related: excessive exposure to noise, for an extended period, often leads to cases of workplace depression or aggressiveness.
How to reduce office noise with the right design
There's no need to abandon the open-plan concept altogether to reduce noise pollution in the office. Design and good behavioural standards can be sure-fire weapons in your workplace arsenal!
Here are a few tips.
Create quieter spaces by using partition walls. Individual offices are clearly at an advantage from this point of view (solitude has its plus side!), but even meeting rooms can be a solution sometimes: when they're not in use, they can be a great place to escape to for some quiet time and to "recover" from the barrage of noise, even just for a few minutes.
Upholstered leather executive chairs, swivel conference armchairs and office reception area chairs have a positive impact on the room's acoustics.
Partition screens help limit noise and have an added advantage: their presence often inhibits the constant chattering between one desk and the next.
Listen to your co-workers' ideas: mutual respect for each other's work is a good starting point. Sometimes, all it takes to improve the situation is lowering your voice a notch!
If you're designing a new space, work from the floor up, and don't overlook the ceiling: certain materials can deaden noise in the room.
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