The modern office is nigh unrecognisable alongside the drab, beige cubicle maze of the 80’s and 90’s. From standing desks and ergonomic mouse pads to in-house naturopaths and flexible hours, the workplace wellness trend is transforming the way we live, work, and play. However, with the popularity of exposed brick, polished concrete, and floor to ceiling glass in contemporary office design, acoustics are often an afterthought. To help you design better workspaces, we’ve collated seven valuable insights into acoustic wellness.

Noise affects everyone differently

Studies^ show that introverted people struggle to focus in noisy environments, as they’re more sensitive to external stimuli than their extraverted co-workers. If their workplace doesn’t offer dedicated ‘quiet zones’ or breakout spaces, they are likely to suffer from heightened stress and fatigue.

^Dobbs, S., Furnham, A., McClelland, A. (2010). The effect of background music and noise on the cognitive test performance of introverts and extraverts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25, 307-313.

 

Noise causes fatigue and stress

In open-plan workspaces with no acoustic treatment, office noise is a constant distraction. While it’s true that extraverts find it easier to focus in noisy environments, everyone—regardless of personality type—is susceptible to listener fatigue. Symptoms of prolonged exposure to auditory stimuli range from tiredness, to pain and high blood pressure; easily prevented by creating ‘quiet zones’ where staff can retreat to focus or take a break.

 

Acoustic privacy is vital

Acoustic treatment creates a sense of privacy, providing space for staff to have confidential meetings or take personal phone calls. Acoustic privacy allows staff to feel like they have control over their workday, boosting both job performance and morale. Installing acoustic desk screens, such as the Vicinity system, is a great way to create both visual and acoustic privacy in open-plan spaces.

Noise disrupts productivity

When studying the impact of sound on how we think, Psychologist Nick Perham discovered that office noise impairs workers’ ability to recall information and do basic arithmetic. In busy open-plan environments, even quiet conversations can disrupt productivity. For workplaces that thrive on both individual and collaborative work, this is an important factor to consider.

 

Collaborating in the new-normal

As a growing number of people are working from home, modern workplaces need to provide spaces for people to collaborate with team members online. Acoustically treated meeting rooms and breakout spaces designed to support video calls are a great way to ensure collaboration can continue without distraction. Our Composition® and Symphony® acoustic wallcoverings are designed to absorb noise at the high end of the frequency spectrum, which is where the human voice usually sits.

Acoustic treatment is easy to retrofit

As many interior acoustic products are designed to be retrofitted, applying acoustic treatment in existing office spaces is easy. Ceiling systems such as Frontier™ and Lattice are perfect for large open-plan offices and busy cafeterias, easily installed with a simple suspension kit. In offices lacking both visual and acoustic privacy, Cascade™ Hanging Screens and Vicinity™ Desk Screens can be used to separate working zones without sacrificing collaboration.

Where is acoustic treatment needed most?

You don’t need to pack your space with acoustic treatment for it to be effective. The most important areas to treat are open-plan spaces, meeting rooms, breakout spaces, and rooms with lots of reflective surfaces—think glass, marble, and polished concrete. Applying acoustic treatment in these spaces will control echo and reverberation, lowering the overall noise levels.