Noise in the Office Can Cause Stress

Is loud or irritating noise keeping you from being as productive as you can be? Well you aren’t alone. Noise can be a tremendous irritant and the underlying cause of stress. According to a study by Cornell University, low-level noise in open-style offices results in higher levels of stress and lower task motivation. There are a set of structural, and office layout techniques that can be employed to lower the levels of irritating noises.

By Mark Rustad

PA & Secretaries  Noise in the Office Can Cause Stress Noise can be an irritant and the underlying cause of stress. According to a study by a Cornell University environmental psychologist, low-level noise in open-style offices seems to result in higher levels of stress and lower task motivation.

The study also suggests that even moderately noisy open offices might contribute significantly to health problems such as heart disease (due to elevated levels of epinephrine, a stress hormone) and musculoskeletal problems.

A study by the American Society of Interior Designers also showed that office productivity would increase if workspaces were less noisy. They also say that prolonged exposure to loud noise can contribute to high blood pressure levels, as well as everyday aggravation, annoyance, and loss of tranquility.

Although some people may think that they function best in a noisy, hectic environment, research shows that decibel levels over 60 can reduce a person's attention span. Interestingly, a normal conversation takes place at about 60 decibels. The usual office background noise is about 45-55 decibels, but when workers are placed close together, or in rooms with many people talking at the same time, decibel levels can rise to 70 or higher.

Noise problems can be more than the sounds within your office, sometimes your office will share thin walls, allowing noise to come in from your neighbors. If you can hear conversations or work sounds, it most likely is interfering with your own productivity. But don't despair. There are acoustical fixes that can help.

There are office design sound proofing treatments out there and they should address two distinct office sound control goals. The first is the need to contain and isolate one room's noise from the next for greater office privacy. The second is the need to protect a group of employees in an office cubicle environment from one another's voices for better office room acoustics.

For isolating one office from the next, the goal is to block the transmission of sound from bleeding through a common wall. Your ultimate goal is to impair the wall's ability to conduct vibration. This is accomplished by adding two components to your wall assembly: the first is density, the second is disconnection. The combination of these two ingredients will help force the collapse of your sound wave inside your wall, and can trigger up to a 90% drop in sound transmission.

If the noise is coming from above you, then there is the issue of soundproofing the ceiling. To do this, the first goal is to combat the bleed of noise through the ceiling for greater sound isolation and privacy between rooms that share this common surface. The second is to improve the room's acoustics with ceiling tile treatments designed to capture unwelcome sound reflections in the room.

When noise in your office is due to people within the office and their cubicles, your options include: replacing your cubicles with a more sound attenuating cubicle system, installing a sound masking system designed to disguise one another's voices for greater oral privacy and a better office sound system, or placing a set of sound absorption panels, acoustical panels or ceiling tiles around your room's perimeter to combat the unwanted sound reflections spreading around the room.

Noise doesn't have to be a deterrent, irritant or a barricade to productivity in your office setting. With a professional assessment, you can find a way to reduce the stress of your staff and create a more efficient office space.

Mark Rustad is President of NetWell Noise Control, based in Minneapolis, MN. Founded in 1991, NetWell is a leading supplier of ceiling tiles, acoustic products, soundproofing treatments, and online acoustical consulting services. NetWell’s sound management skills are packaged into the industry’s premier website. For more information, please visit Discover first hand why so much of NetWell’s business stems from the referrals and repeat orders they receive from satisfied clients around the world.

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Mark Rustad
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