To encourage sustainable infrastructure and collaborations amongst employees, majority of corporations are now transforming traditional office spaces featuring an open seating plan – an arrangement that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but equally brings in a loss of privacy and increased noise levels. 

Office noise is a growing concern and for those working in shared office spaces, is considered a productivity killer. Servcorp, a leading office space provider published a study revealing that flexible workspaces will constitute more than 60% of the total office demand in the GCC by 2025

In offices, noise could be caused by various sources: air conditioning, employees talking over the phone, obnoxious ringtones, traffic, nearby construction, and especially from other people’s voices. These noises may wreck productivity or mental health. Those who suffer from chronic illnesses such as migraines tend to be hypersensitive to noise. Any kind of excessive noise can be a trigger for migraines, headache disorders and different problems related to this issue; it can often lead to a high danger of disability and emotional side effects such as anxiety and depression. 

Stating facts, it takes noise at a level of 85 decibels or more to cause damage to your hearing. Office noise can increase up to 50 decibels which can be more than just annoying, and apart from disrupting productivity, it can lead to more stress, lower job satisfaction and employee morale. 

According to research conducted by Steelcase (a leading manufacturer of office supplies and furniture), 49% of employees report a lack of concentration at the workplace and the average person loses 86 minutes per day due to distractions and lack of privacy.  

So how do you effectively manage office noise?

Shared workspaces or flexible workspaces have advantages and disadvantages. Most organizations prefer this system due to the advantages being more appealing. Hence, they need better manage the productivity killer: office noise. Here are some tips: 

  • Create dedicated “quiet” spaces – creating designated spaces for meetings and discussions, for taking private calls or for simply working on an important project will be an essential way to deter away from the noise in a healthy way. Organizations could also create rooms for employees to rest, recharge and refocus their energy
  • Don’t dampen the noise, direct it - High-traffic spaces such as conference rooms, break rooms, kitchens should be situated away from workstations so that noise could be directed away from the place(s) that need concentration and focus 
  • Allow employees to use noise-cancellation headphones 
  • Each employee reacts differently to office noise. What may be distressing to one, might not be to the other. Management should ensure that concerns of each employee is heard and then provide solutions to problems in ways that could benefit the entire organization 
  • Plants are a proven way to cancel out noise. Additionally, the overall impact on air quality also increases and it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Organizations should keep in mind that the larger the plant, the bigger the impact. 

If office noise could be a potential risk to your business, it would make sense to look at small changes to reduce the levels over time. Noise is a natural part of any office. Rather than trying to eliminate it, use it to your advantage to curate the environment and culture that will inspire your employees.

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