I’m sure we’ve all seen and maybe even experienced the “open office” concept; a giant room filled with cubicles and dozens of conversations all happening at once. Originally, open offices were conceived to facilitate the communication between co-workers and to allow for ideas to flow easier. But unfortunately the lack of walls can lead to distractions and a decrease in productivity.
Without walls, more uncontrolled interactions and distractions occur, leading to higher levels of stress and lower levels of concentration. To some, walls represent privacy, and a feeling of privacy literally can boost job performance. When you can control the environment around you, it’s more likely you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction and team cohesion.
But what’s been found to be the most problematic aspect of the open office has nothing to do with the psychological side but instead is completely physical; simple noise. It’s been determined that office commotion can impair a worker’s ability to remember information or do simple math. Overlooking how sound can affect occupants in a new building can cause many problems. “We experience every space in five senses,” says Julian Treasure, chairman of the Sound Agency, “so it’s strange that architects design just for the eyes.”
What’s worse than too much commotion in an office? SILENCE! Trying to achieve complete silence in an office environment can actually make things much worse. Think about being in a library and you suddenly sneeze, everyone looks up and immediately knows who caused the distraction. Imagine if your office was this quiet. Any tiny noise would immediately become a problem for the entire space.
The solution is to find the right level of ambient noise, also known as ‘sound masking.’ Most offices function properly at 50-60 decibels of sound and by introducing a form of noise which requires no mental focus (white noise) productivity can immediately increase. Determining what specific part of an office causes the most noise is also key. Sound masking is emitted through speakers and certain areas can be programmed to a specific level dependent on preference and need.
By introducing a sound to mask conversations and give workers a sense or privacy can immediately boost productivity and improve overall satisfaction on the job.