Open office plans attract creative and talented employees but can pose acoustic problems. In fact, noise pollution is cited as one of the biggest factors in loss of productivity — not only affecting the organization as a whole, but also affecting employee satisfaction and morale at work.
John Stein, president of Kirei USA, a San Diego-based leading provider of innovative acoustic solution materials, has compiled “The ABCs of Acoustics” to help both employees and employers navigate their workspaces.
“It’s smart to remember this convenient acronym, ‘The ABCs of Acoustics,’ describing the three factors an office needs to achieve speech privacy, lessen distractions, and eliminate noise pollution,” Stein tells SoCal Real Estate. Acoustic products/system solutions should do the following: A. absorb sound waves B. block traveling noise, and C. cover and control background sound.”
Stein says privacy and distraction are the top two issues faced in today’s modern, open offices. “Employees find their productivity greatly impacted by excessive noise pollution within the office. Increasing stress levels due to background sound (phone calls, typing, clicking, etc.) also are impacting employees’ productivity. Every distraction takes time away from tasks at hand, and also it takes a significant amount of time to return to your activity at the same level of intensity. Less distraction equals happier employees and less absenteeism and lower turnover, all directly impacting the bottom line.”
The sleek, open-concept, modern designs of today’s office spaces have become quite popular, but they can be an acoustical nightmare, Stein points out. “Echo occurs most frequently when there are parallel, smooth hard surfaces. Artless walls, concrete floors, and tall ceilings are beautiful and trending; however, they cause the most issues with acoustics.” It’s an up-front investment to plan out the acoustic design of your space, but planning means that you’ll avoid bigger acoustic issues in the long run, he adds. “Having a few quick solutions up your sleeve can help the acoustic health of your space without sky-high costs.”
Going forward, Stein says he believes it’s now a requirement for designers and planners to cater to the auditory function of the office space. “Office designs can look great and be acoustically sound. It may take a little investment up front, but it pays off big time in the long run.”