Could you repeat that? Noise as the main enemy of productivity

Noise is one of the most common sources of discomfort in offices, with 70% of employees expressing dissatisfaction.1 High noise levels decrease productivity by an average of 6%,2 increasing stress and employee sickness along with it. Despite these findings, architects and designers still often think of noise as a minor nuisance.1 Will the “New Normal” change that?

Noise affects us on many different levels. A noisy work environment has been shown3 to slow down cognitive performance and significantly impair memory. Noise makes it difficult to concentrate, dramatically lowering our productivity. Correlation has also been shown between a noisy environment and employee absence due to sickness; noise is one of the greatest stressors in the workplace.4 In contrast, concentration can improve our performance by up to 50%!5 The most disruptive noise in the workplace is the human voice – the better we understand it, the more disruptive it is.6 Fortunately, disruption from voices is actually fairly easy to counteract. How?

Everybody benefits from a quiet environment

Functional interior design offers the simplest solutions. Good acoustic management in the office is critical, ideally incorporating acoustic wall hangings, freestanding dividers, and sophisticated acoustic furniture. The Czech company SilentLab specializes in acoustic pieces like this, including chairs designed to optimize acoustics for discreet phone calls, poufs for relaxation zones, and stylish micro offices. The “New Normal,” forcing employers to pay more attention to employee wellbeing, is the very reason companies are investing more and more into similar acoustic solutions. Employees constitute up to 90% of company costs, and so employers who invest in their satisfaction begin reaping the rewards quickly and continue doing so for a long time.7 All SilentLab´s products are made in the Czech Republic with a strong emphasis on sustainability and environmental protection.

But it’s not just about noise

Noise may be the most noticeable problem, but it’s actually part of a bigger problem: lack of privacy. Research shows that open space offices experience a gradual cooling of interpersonal relationships, leading directly to poor cooperation within teams.8 Lack of privacy, however, is also a simple matter to counteract.

SilentLab’s flagship product is a MICROOFFICE®, perfectly soundproof miniature office you can install anywhere without structural changes to the space. In combination with acoustic furniture you can also create private spaces for employees. Different types of MICROOFFICE® can fit between one and eight people at a time. They come equipped with furniture, electricity, internet cable connector, videoconference equipment and excellent ventilation to keep your brain in top shape for as long as you need. Most importantly, however, MICROOFFICE® offers privacy and quiet for people inside and outside the unit.

A quiet place to work

How important is it to have that elusive “quiet place to work”? It seems to be quite essential, in fact. It keeps company costs down and has a positive impact on employee health and satisfaction. With the “New Normal”, that is putting pressure on employers to make changes to benefit their employees, it seems only natural that this topic is popping up more and more often. We can only hope that this will be a long-term trend. And companies like SilentLab will take care of the rest.

1 The Leesman Index: The Workplace Experience Revolution Part 2

2 The response to noise distraction by different personality types: an extended psychoacoustics study, Nigel Oseland and Paige Hodsman, Corporate Real Estate Journal, 2020, 9 (3), 215–233

3 Subjective reactions to noise in open plan offices and the effects of noise on cognitive performance problems and solutions, Annu Haapakangas, University of Turku, 2017

4 The joint effects of noise, job complexity and gender on employee sickness absence, Fried et al., in: Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 2002

5 Effect of noise on intellectual performance, Weinstein, University of California, Berkeley, Journal of Applied Psychology, 1974

6 Noise in office: scientific basis, Kjellberg, Anders, Landström, Ulf, 1994

7 Health, wellbeing & productivity in offices, World Green Building Council, 2014

8 The effect of office concepts on worker health and performance: a systematic review of the literature, De Croon et al., 2005