When you think about noise regulations at work, you probably think of workplaces that involve working with loud machinery or within loud surroundings such as a factory, I bet you weren’t thinking that noise within an office space could negatively affect your employees.
On average, a conversation in the office can create between 50-60 decibels of noise whereas a road drill creates 100-110 decibels of noise. Considering that a conversation causes half the noise of a road drill, it’s not surprising that noise within an office can cause numerous issues for employees.
So, what are the acceptable decibel levels in an office?
You cannot get rid of noise completely, but if your office is excessively noisy on a day to day basis, these are some of the negative effects it could be having on your employees:
Noise within the office can be caused by countless factors. A colleague printing some work off, the phone ringing, colleagues having a conversation, etc. These noises are minor but they can all cause stress for employees.
Working within an office can cause stress due to tight deadlines and a hectic workload, however, not many people know that noise is also another catalyst of stress. A study by the American Society of Interior Designers said that prolonged exposure to loud noise can contribute to high blood pressure levels, aggravation, annoyance and loss of tranquility.
Decibels that reach over 60 can reduce an employee’s attention span. Seeing as a normal conversation is between 50-60 decibels, when more than one person is having a conversation, it can easily boost these decibels up, especially if you have an open plan office.
Everyone reacts to noise differently. Every employee, knows what they can individually cope with and what’s the best work environment for them. Some people find working in complete silence stressful whereas others find working, listening to music, incredibly stressful. In most cases, most people find noise to be a negative influence. Some studies show that working in a noisy area can cause employees to be 66% less productive.
Having an open plan office space means more noise is heard over a larger space so more employees are affected by background noise (with no escape!). This can be extremely stressful and damaging to productivity.
Have you ever been extremely drowsy at work even though the workplace is full of employees chatting? Usually that much noise would make it impossible to fall asleep however it has been discovered that noise can cause tiredness.
As mentioned above, noise can cause stress, it increases your blood pressure and this causes you to feel more tired. When you’re feeling stressed, your body tends to work harder to compensate. If noise is causing long term issues in the offices, it’s not surprise the long term stress is causing exhaustion issues too.
Increase Office Tensions
Too much noise in an office can cause conflict and problems between employees.
There is always that one person in the office who likes to talk often and loudly, whether on the phone, or to other colleagues. When one person talks loudly, other employees then have to raise their voices to talk over that person to be heard, this can create a vortex of noise, creating an array of distractions within the workplace. If too much conversation is distracting employees, it can make some employees feel frustrated and unhappy with their louder colleagues.
Even disagreements about the radio can cause tension. In most offices, some employees will prefer to work with the radio playing in the background while some people prefer absolute silence. Some employees feel they are more productive and motivated by background sounds, while others may struggle with any kind of noise.
These types of distractions take your employees’ attention away from their work and will have a negative influence on overall productivity and results.
How To Resolve Noise Issues
You can’t eliminate noise from the workplace completely, however there are ways to reduce frustrating and distracting noise levels:
- Create quiet rooms where employees can go and work quietly if they are finding the office too noisy.
- Provide employees with noise cancelling headphones if they would like to get rid of the background noise and/or listen to music.
- Get a company messaging programme so employees can message each other online instead of shouting across an office or getting up to have a conversation. This will keep noise at bay but is also a good way to socialise and ask work-related questions.
These are just a few ideas but you will know what works well within your workspace and what’s best for your employees.
Improve Your Productivity Levels By Improving How You Manage Noise
Noise is an issue in any workplace however there are means and ways to work around it and keep up morale within the office. Keeping your workforce happy is key to keeping work productive and of high quality.