Chattering Colleagues or Sounds of Silence: Which Is Golden for the Workplace?
The following is an excerpt from Andie Burjek’s article for Workforce Magazine:
My dad is an architect, mostly because Mike Brady was one on “The Brady Bunch.” But I can’t judge. One of the only reasons I thought I could be a writer professionally is because one- or two-star movies made me believe that was possible. “The Devil Wears Prada,” “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” … both movies with female journalist leads named Andie. I was easily convinced.
Anyway, Mike Brady’s protégé recently sent me a rather interesting issue of the Leesman Review from August 2015. The topic? The acoustic workplace. The argument? That the design of a workplace, specifically the acoustics, can have a significant impact on employee productivity and well-being. One op-ed in the issue cited a study by global consultancy Ipsos of 10,000-plus workers that found office workers lose 86 minutes a day because of distractions.
As somebody who is in no way a design and/or acoustics expert, I can’t judge the quality of these arguments but thought they were worth noting and exploring.
First, let’s define what constitutes a poor acoustic environment. According to this report, it could mean a couple different things. Number one: That the office contains unwanted noise or distractions such as the traffic outside or unsettling background sounds indoors, like phones ringing. And No. 2, there is too much quiet. To quote the review:
“By creating quiet you end up with a library, a place where you can hear a pin drop, when someone coughs it shatters the silence, if someone dare speak everyone is listening whether interested or not in the content of the conversation. You know the office is too quiet when people leave the office to make phone calls and this is a common occurrence.”
The solution, on the most basic level, to create an environment of audio comfort is to amplify some sounds (example: speech) while minimizing others (like background noise, traffic). Reaching audio comfort will supposedly increase productivity in the workplace.
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