The open-plan office makes everyone equal in the office setting. Gone away are the large corner offices for the “top dogs” and smaller, shared offices for the minor players. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? The intended purpose of open-plan offices is to boost collaboration and productivity, but many are finding the lack of privacy isn’t worth it. Studies show that open-plan workspaces decrease employees’ attention spans, short-term memory, productivity, creative thinking and satisfaction and increases stress levels. Still, 70 percent of U.S. workplaces are pro-open-plan offices. The Harvard Business Review makes suggestions for muting unwanted noise in an open-plan office environment.
Photo credit to: ofs/First Office
Since providing a private office for each employee isn’t affordable for most companies, there is no other choice but to study the element of sound in office workplaces. Sound is all around us, affecting what you think and how you feel. Learning the element of sound will allow you to capture the privacy, performance and well-being that open-plan offices stole. A 2003 Herman Miller study showed that masking sound can increase productivity by up to 38 percent, reduce stress by 27 percent and increase job satisfaction by up to 174 percent!
You may be asking yourself how you can mask sounds in your own workspace! At an office in New York City, Harvard Business Review created an immersive soundscape complete with sonic art installations, featured playlists and coordinating lighting cues to help their employees work effectively and happily. While in a Chicago office, simple ceiling speakers direct white noise down into cubicle spaces, thus creating noise-canceling cones of silence that allow co-workers working closely together to carry on multiple conversations. Also an option to masking sound is white noise’s cousin, pink noise, to deepen focus, concentration and productivity. According to live science, pink noise contains all the frequencies that are audible to humans, but is distributed differently. The power per hertz in pink noise decreases as the frequency increases.
If you’re company isn’t doing enough to improve the sound masking in your workplace, you can always grab a pair of headphones and listen to your favorite tunes. Begin your morning with energetic sounds that pump you up and boost your mood, and end it with calming sounds. There are even apps that supply soothing, productive sounds to heighten your productivity.
Companies that listen to their employees and address the issue of sound in their office workspaces will be conquering a huge complaint by employees. The concept of sound is stunning. It can spark imaginations, grab attention and play on emotions. If one thing is certain, companies and employees should implement sound to their advantage!