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Noise at Work

Addressing noise in the open plan

Open offices are a reality of the workplace. With as many as eight out of ten knowledge workers in open plan environments, the recognized benefits of increased collaboration, engagement and knowledge transfer, not to mention greater space efficiency, means they are here to stay.

For all their value, open offices bring acoustic challenges that have profound impact on the people who occupy them.

Nearly 75% of employees feel managed noise levels are an important quality in an effective workplace, according to the Leesman Index, a workplace experience survey of more than 350,000 employees across 2,700 workplaces in 69 countries.

However, just 30% of employees in the Leesman database are satisfied with noise levels in their workplace. Dissatisfaction with noise is statistically the strongest indicator of poorly perceived productivity and the main source of workspace dissatisfaction.

“Acoustics have a very big lever on the ability of the workplace to be a productive environment,” related Steve Johnson, founder, ADI Workplace Acoustics, who warns, “the most well-designed workplace environment will be a failure if you don’t get the acoustics right.”

It’s important to distinguish between sound and noise. Sound is vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person's ear. Noise is unwanted sound that can be loud or merely annoying: a coworker’s conversation, a loud paper shredder, a noisy air conditioner.