We often hear about the dangers of disorganization and disengagement in the workplace. But there’s an even bigger productivity killer that no one talks about: noise pollution. From a lack of concentration and communication difficulties to increased stress, headache disorders, and, in extreme cases, hearing damage, a noisy office can certainly wreak havoc among the well-being of employees.
The bad news is that noise levels don’t have to reach damaging decibels for workers to feel its negative effects. Thankfully, however, there is good news. With just a few simple office tweaks, you and your employees can overcome the dreaded noise pollution side-effects. We’ll tell you how!
How Does Noise Pollution Affect Workers?
Exposure to prolonged or excessive noise within the workplace isn’t just annoying for employees. It also has a wide range of negative effects, regarding both productivity and health. Let’s take a closer look at how noise pollution can potentially affect office workers.
Loss of Concentration and Productivity
It’s very difficult to focus on the task at hand when noisy printers or snippets of a co-worker’s dramatic conversation can be heard. This noise can prevent an employee from dedicating their full concentration to their role. This lack of focus also dramatically affects their productivity, resulting in the employee achieving less than what they’re capable of during that time frame.
Not surprisingly, this can have a domino effect on the entire company, as each employee may struggle to fulfill their duties to the best of their abilities.
When you add an approaching deadline, a difficult work task, and prolonged exposure to certain noises in the office, you’ve got yourself a recipe for immense stress. This stress response may feel like a temporary situation but can cause potentially long-term health problems for workers, including high blood pressure.
High volumes of noise also go hand-in-hand with hearing damage, although perhaps not in the way you would initially think. Even low but continuous noise pollution in an office can cause employees to plug in their headphones and turn up their music. Although they might be drowning out the constant noise of chatter, coffee machines, and phones ringing, this may cause hearing damage from listening to their music too loud.
Migraine and Headache Disorders
Some office employees may have chronic health issues, which makes them more sensitive to workplace noise pollution than the average person. Excessive noise can be a leading trigger for migraine or headache sufferers, for example, resulting in an increase in their symptoms — not to mention the emotional and mental side effects that go hand-in-hand with these high levels of pain.
A successful workplace relies on excellent communication, yet excessive noise levels can certainly get in the way. Miscommunication can cause all sorts of problems in a workplace, while an inability to hear co-workers may just result in employees feeling isolated, unproductive, and dissatisfied in their roles.
How to Manage Noise Pollution in Your Office
Now that we’ve covered the detrimental effects noise pollution can have within an office, let’s take a look at the ways in which you can minimize or manage noise in your own workplace.
Create Dedicated Quiet Spaces
Having a completely silent workplace isn’t possible, nor is it something that everyone may want. After all, office banter and background music can sometimes help workers to feel happier and more motivated at work, thus boosting employee productivity.
Therefore, one solution is to set up quiet zones, which are dedicated spaces where employees can step away from the hustle and bustle, along with the noise pollution that comes with it. This will allow them to partake in a phone call or meeting without distracting background sounds. Plus, it gives them an area to refocus or recharge when they require it.
Utilize White Noise
Another way to minimize noise pollution is by masking it with white noise. White noise machines promote a calmer workspace by producing more pleasant background sounds, such as a gentle breeze, a trickling waterfall, or softly chirping birds. They aim to block or dull those pesky office noises, such as fax machines and printers or phone call chatter.
Additionally, you can encourage workers to use noise cancelling headphones to minimize these sounds. However, keep in mind that they won't be able to hear any vocal requests or questions that come their way either.
Sound-Proof with a Living Wall
If you’re looking for an office noise solution that’s both effective and aesthetically pleasing, then you can also install a living wall. Studies have shown that living walls can reduce indoor sounds by an average of 15 decibels. For perspective, this is the difference in volume between a vacuum cleaner (75 dBA) and a lawnmower (90 dBA).
The modern office chooses to embrace large, open spaces, offering a stark contrast to the once-traditional, cubicle-filled workplace. However, this open space increases the risk of noise pollution tenfold, resulting in an office that may look good, but has poor acoustics.
Plant walls are therefore the perfect solution to this problem, as they allow companies to create sections within their workplace that reduce noise pollution while still looking modern and on-trend.
Living walls offer plenty more benefits than minimizing noise pollution. A study by Exeter University found workers are approximately 15 percent more productive when there are plants incorporated into their office decor. Other advantages of incorporating a plant wall into your workplace include improved creativity, stress reduction, improved air quality, and reduced levels of employee sickness and absenteeism.
Incorporating Noise Reducing Living Walls in Your Office Decor
Thankfully, incorporating a plant wall into your office isn’t hard, nor does it require a lot of upkeep. At Zauben, our Model Z living wall is designed with hydroponic technology that conserves 75% more water than plants grown in soil, self-irrigates, and monitors plant health 24/7.
Plus, our purpose-built living walls were designed to adapt to your workspace and can easily be positioned in various places throughout your office, or moved to an entirely new location. We even offer ongoing plant care to keep your living wall looking lush and beautiful, so you and your employees can focus on doing what you do best.