While most studies and discussions of noise pollution center around things like airports and concerts, its indoor effects, especially in the workplace, can be incredibly harmful to production and worker attitudes.
Scientific study of noise pollution
In the workplace, indoor noise pollution can have a wide range of detrimental effects. Government and private studies conducted the world over have pointed to noise pollution in the office as a major factor in reducing efficiency, contributing to a negative social environment and even causing worker health issues.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency devotes a section of its website to the negative consequences of noise pollution. The World Health Organization has highlighted it as an issue in both indoor and outdoor environments. And studies done at two California universities show how noise adversely affects workers in the office.
Certain countries, like South Africa, even have specific protections built into their workers’ compensation acts that cover the health effects of noise pollution.
Ramifications of noise pollution in the office
Aside from any objective health issues that might arise as a result of noise pollution in the office, there is also the less quantifiable problem of how it affects worker productivity and attitude.
Anyone who has ever tried to concentrate in a noisy environment can attest to its difficulty. Reading, writing, researching and even taking a few minutes to yourself for lunch can all be hampered or completely interrupted by too much ambient noise. And the more often you have to deal with that problem, the worse it becomes, with the issue compounding on top of itself.
Open-design offices have only added to the problem. While they can be an attractive space that encourages collaboration, they also make it much more likely that conversations and activities will float through the space, making it more difficult for everyone to be productive.
Fixing noise pollution in the office
Fortunately, for owners and managers of businesses or properties that face this issue, there are two new lines of acoustical bamboo panels from the San Francisco-based company Smith & Fong. Its new lines – PlybooSound and Plyboo Reveal – are designed specifically with the open office design in mind.
The panels act to dampen the sounds that clutter public spaces, allowing workers, clients and customers to go about their business without unnecessary auditory clutter. In turn, the upgraded environment can lead to better productivity, more efficient use of time and a happier workspace where people don’t feel overwhelmed by those around them.