Today, problems with noise are no stranger to open-plan offices, schools and institutions as it gets more and more common to work and gather in open spaces. Noise problems reduce focus and concentration and many initiatives have therefore been invented to accommodate this problem.
There are however also examples where products with the intention of reducing noise have proven disadvantageous for the working environment, such as carpets and curtains to improve the acoustics that sometimes cause dust problems. It is therefore important for businesses, schools and institutions to consider their options, when they are looking to improve their working environment.
It is important to consider whether to implement behavioral rules for employees using the open-plan office to increase focus and reduce noise. Next, you should consider how much you are willing to invest in noise-reducing materials.
According to the Danish Working Environment Business Society (BFA), focusing on preventing ergonomic problems is of high importance. Consequently, the following areas require great attention:
- Any employee requires space to move freely around his/her desk and around the room in general. This means space to move your office chair aside when bringing your desk up, and in general space to work without disturbance.
- Décor and interior must support varying work in order for the employee to be able to use and set his/her office furniture and equipment according to his/her own needs.
- Décor and interior are to meet special needs. This means the business must be able to accommodate a need to, for example, access the office through a wheel chair or lowering/bringing up the desk more than what is usually possible.
Accommodating the above needs are not enough to create a healthy working environment. A healthy working environment also depends on the following factors:
Air, light and noise
A good air quality, good lighting and a low level of noise at the office are essential elements to the concentration and productivity of any person.
Focusing on the air quality in the office is very important. Setting the right temperature in an open-plan office is often challenging, as every person is different and therefore might have different preferences. It is recommended for the office temperature to be around 21-22 C and for the air not to be too dry or humid. A great way of securing the air quality of open-plan offices is by implementing a CO2 measurer, which indicates when to air out the office. Studies show that poor air quality can cause various problems:
- Reduced ability to perform by up to 15%
- Greater risk of spreading diseases
- Headache and allergic reactions
Proper work lighting requires a nice, natural lighting coming from windows and at the same time proper electrical lighting, which can be adjusted to individual employees with special needs.
Noise and a reduced ability to concentrate are the biggest problems especially open-plan offices and office communities face. This means that business often need to invest in equipment and phone booths/quiet rooms to help the individual employee escape disturbing elements, avoid disturbing others and increase productivity. Our sensitivity towards noise differs a lot, but studies clearly show a connection between age and the ability to be productive in a noisy setting. Studies also show that introvert people are thriving less in open-plan offices/office communities than extrovert persons. Therefore, employers have a responsibility to provide a working environment that takes every employee into account.
What you need to know and what to do as an employer
Employers can lead the way for behavioral rules in open-plan offices, but they are also responsible for implementing necessary initiatives to support these rules and thereby create the best possible working environment.
The Danish working environment authority recommends for the noise level to stay below 45-50 dB, which means that behavioral rules are rarely enough to achieve the desired effect, when it comes to noise and distractions.
There are a lot of different initiatives to take as employer to improve the working environment:
- Place employees with the need to share their knowledge together
- Every workstation must have the ability to change position, turn the chair and sit down and get up without bumping into table legs, drawers or other interior. In addition, there should be at least 110 cm of free space behind the desk in order for the chair to be pushed back without bumping into the wall or another workstation
- Take the combination of daylight, workstation lighting and orientation lighting into account. Employees sitting far from windows will need artificial lighting similar to daylight more than employees sitting close to the window, who at times will need to shield from the sun
- Choose low-energy light bulbs and office equipment that uses the least possible amount of energy
- Put printers and copying machines in a separate room
- Ventilation. The body odors of many people require proper ventilation inside an office
- A separate wardrobe for wet and smelly coats and jackets is a good idea
- Noise. We are all affected by different kinds of noises. Make sure the office has places to sit down and concentrate without being disturbed. Consider implementing wireless phones, redirecting permanent phones and muting personal phones
- When decorating the office, think about how your employees actually supplement each other and how they avoid disturbing each other in their everyday work. Make sure to think about how existing or new work rooms can reduce noise efficiently for the number of employees in them
- Make sure to align the number of meeting rooms, quiet rooms, project rooms and/or noise-reduced lounge areas with the number of work tasks to be performed
The PhoneAlone booth was created due to problems we all experience in open-plan offices and office communities. Our goal is to increase concentration and productivity with the people that use the booths.
Want to try out and see how the PhoneAlone booth works as a quiet room and reduces noise by 30 dB? Please give us a call or send us an email.