Background Noise in Modern Workplaces Cost Productivity


Background noise is one of the biggest employee gripes in the modern workplace.

A natural repercussion of the last decade’s sea change toward more open office space, high noise levels can cost companies in employee focus and productivity.

According to a 2015 World Green Building Council (WGBC) report, background noise can lead to as much as a 66 percent drop in productivity, while a UK study found that three in 10 employees regularly lose their concentration due to the chatter and hum of office life. That makes noise the biggest workplace distraction – more than other clear productivity drains, including social media.

Fortunately, smart acoustics, building commissioning and workplace design can cut the distracting noise, without sacrificing the office “buzz” that is also vital to collaboration.

Fine-tuning the office environment

No one wants noise or lack of privacy to interfere with getting work done, regardless of whether there’s too much or too little sound.

“The role of sound should be considered as early as possible in the earliest design stage,” says Bernice Boucher, Managing Director, Americas Workplace Strategy, JLL. “What is the optimal level of noise in your workplace? Organizations can use several important noise-balancing strategies to fine-tune the auditory environment.”

Before the blueprints are even submitted, many highly advanced noise-reducing tactics can be engineered into a building’s architecture and construction.From there, workplace layout can make all the difference in the sound experience. For example, separating quiet zones and collaboration zones provides activity-focused office neighborhoods. And, simply providing access to small, quiet workstations can spur productivity by an additional six percent, according to JLL workplace research.

Three ways to beat office noise

The mantra in noise reduction, according to the U.S. General Services Administration, is to absorb, block, and mask the offending sounds—or silence.


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