How to control noise in the workplace

November 24, 2015

Noise in the workplace causing stress to business

The problem of noise at work

Almost any workplace can be a noisy environment and noise problems in turn can have a negative effect on efficiency, staff morale and in extreme cases can even result in permanent hearing damage. Noise problems are not exclusive to heavy industry and many office situations are far from perfect but solutions exist to help make them as near as possible acoustically perfect.

First steps in noise control planning

Reducing the noise from machines or external sources is a first step and the workplace should be designed to minimise such problems but even an apparently quiet room can become unacceptably noisy when work in the office is in full swing.

Most offices today have partitioned workspaces rather than solid walls and doors meaning that a raised voice at one end of the room can clearly be heard at the other end and this, multiplied many times over, results in a hubbub of background noise making normal conversation difficult.

Having established that producing noise is inevitable and that isolating everyone in their own sound proof office is impractical, it is necessary to come up with effective solutions to keep noise to acceptable levels.

Absorbing sound in a workplace

A major consideration is the amount of sound absorption present in the room. Many people will have heard how sounds in buildings with hard reflective surfaces seem to have a reverberant quality and this may be ideal for a church choir but would be an absolute nightmare for a busy call centre. This quality is dependent on the average absorption coefficient in the room and this in turn depends upon the individual absorption coefficients of the various room surfaces.

These surfaces are not only confined to walls, floors and ceilings but also include furnishings and even people. The main consideration is that by introducing elements into the room with known absorption coefficients, it is possible to tailor the reverberation time which not only improves speech clarity but also gives an overall reduction in noise levels.

Reducing direct and transmitted sounds

Of course absorption is not the only answer and carefully designed screens and enclosures will reduce direct and transmitted sounds. The great thing is that acoustic improvements do not have to be eyesores and many can even be regarded as design features and can be made as wall art or ceiling sculpture. Dividing screens are essential features of any modern office but choosing screens with outstanding acoustic performance makes them even more valuable.

Solutions for every workplace environment

It must be remembered that no two situations are identical, average absorption coefficients are difficult to measure due to variables such as the number of occupants and very large offices show different characteristics to smaller spaces but whatever the situation, careful choice of acoustic products will produce worthwhile improvements which is good news for everyone.

Contact us to discuss an acoustic survey for your workplace.