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How Noise Reduction Improves Productivity

While open office plans are great for encouraging collaboration, they also frequently lead to more noise in the workplace.

Kyle Chandler

Client Relations

At DESIGN+BUILD, we spend a lot of time thinking about how office design elements can facilitate and encourage collaboration. At the same time, we understand the importance of developing a workspace strategy that gives your team quiet areas to focus on individualized tasks.

While open office plans are great for encouraging collaboration, they also frequently lead to more noise in the workplace. Too much noise can interfere with certain tasks and even client calls. Here’s what you need to know if you want to find a balance between quiet and collaboration in your office environment.

How Noise Affects Productivity

Studies have shown that about three-quarters of employees in open office spaces feel that increased noise levels can distract them from work. However, open office plans aren’t the root of the issue here. Instead, that’s because open office plans encourage collaboration, and as your team collaborates more, they talk more.

If your open office leads to increased sound levels, that means it’s working as intended (so long as your goal is facilitating collaboration). The deeper problem is when increased noise levels become a distraction to other employees. Your office space hasn’t achieved the right balance between open collaboration areas and quiet spaces for employees.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that conversations are one of the most distracting forms of noise in the workplace. Ambient conversations are difficult to tune out and can interrupt your train of thought. Interruptions like this can result in employees losing up to 86 minutes a day to distractions. That means that if you can reduce overall noise in the workplace without sacrificing collaboration, you can maximize your team’s productivity and satisfaction.

Mitigating Noise

Fortunately, more sound masking solutions are available today than ever before. Excessive noise levels have become a common problem in modern office, and several possibilities are worth exploring. Depending on where you are in the office design process, you can work with your workplace strategist to ensure you’re developing an office layout that balances quiet spaces with collaboration areas. If you can’t design (or redesign) your office space from the ground up, you can explore more straightforward solutions like adding soft furnishings (think couches or chairs instead of unbroken open space), area rugs, plants, and flexible wall systems.

Sound Masking Solutions

If you’re looking for the latest in sound masking technology, various manufacturers offer white noise systems that minimize ambient noise distractions. White noise systems work by drowning out ambient noises, so your team can stay focused without having to move to a quieter area.

Wondering how more noise actually cuts excessive noise? White noise systems deliver a steady hum that’s quieter than your HVAC system, so your team won’t notice any additional noise. At the same time, this baseline white noise effectively blends with ambient noises to minimize distractions. On top of reducing ambient distractions, sound masking systems also protect privacy when people are talking to each other.

By understanding how your work setting impacts employee satisfaction and productivity, you can take the next step to achieve your growth goals. While reducing noise distractions is critical, you don’t want to sacrifice employee engagement or disrupt work patterns. Ultimately, how your office sounds can be just as important as how it looks.

Sound Slowing Your Team Down?

If your team has complained that excessive noise levels distract them from their work, the experts at DESIGN+BUILD are here to help. We’ll work with you to understand your acoustical environment and develop a specifically engineered solution that maximizes the acoustical comfort of your workspace.


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