Excessive noise is one of the most prevalent complaints within most workplaces. Not only can it be incredibly irritating, it can also have an adverse effect on our work output and even mental well-being. Unfortunately, many modern office designs tend to lean towards an open plan, minimalist aesthetic. While this may look visually pleasing and promote collaborative work, it can be a nightmare when it come to reverberated sounds. Studies have been carried out into how noise affects workers and the best ways to approach the issue.
Dr Nigel Oseland, a renowned workplace strategist and Paige Hodsman of Saint-Gobain Ecophan reviewed over 100 research papers in order to determine how workers are affected by noise in their offices. The results showed that in addition to levels of noise, several factors such as personality, attitude and the kind of task they were given had strong affects on the workers performance in different acoustics.
Dr Oseland and Hodsman then went on to look into how a 'psycho-acoustic' approach to design could be used to make a difference to different working styles and personalities in the office. 'The office layout and design should be based on a psycho-acoustic, people-centred approach, focusing on perception, attitudes, mood, personality and behaviour in relation to noise and sound.'
An excellent way to reduce noise in an office is by introducing plant-life to the area. Plants are surprisingly effective at absorbing unwanted sounds - using a combination of sound absorption, sound refraction and sound deflection. This works particularly well in an open plan environment, which as discussed earlier, can be problematic when it comes to noise control.
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