Noise in Offices

- fundamentals
All sound we prefer not to hear is noise. It is not any particular property in the actual sound, it is the listener's perception of the sound that determines whether a sound is considered to be noise. Noise is not merely pounding machines and whistling fans. Other people's conversations, dripping taps and music can also be perceived as noise.
The `perceived noise´ differs from person to person and from one situation to another. Of course there are sounds most people would prefer not to hear, in many different situations and, when we talk about noise in everyday life it is these noises we usually mean.
 
structure of an ear, illustrationThe noise is unpleasant and disruptive, but the psychological effects are not limited to such experiences. Noise can also affect our behaviour. It might mean we cannot perform our tasks at work as well as we could. Noise that disturbs and stresses can trigger physiological reactions, for example it can make our heart beat faster.
 
Performance. Photo: Joachim KarlssonIntrusive sounds, noise, make us tired and irritable. It has a negative affect on our performance, especially when working on tasks that depend on short-term memory. Noise in the office has a negative impact in three ways:
 
 
1. Performance
2. Memory
3. After-effects
 
1. Performance
Much research reveals that a better sound environment creates a better working environment. This in turn increases our performance. The more difficult and intellectually demanding a task is, the greater the effect. Several studies have been conducted as to how noise affects reading speed, comprehension and memory. Research has proved that people in tests have found it hard to identify grammatical errors and words that have been omitted, misspelt or unsuitable (contextual errors) in a noisy environment, while spelling errors (non-contextual errors) are not affected. Conversational noise does not affect reading in terms of its volume level, but by the degree of similarity between the disruption and what we are reading. It is said that, as we read we translate the text into an internal language. Conversation has a more negative effect on the outcome than background noise, particularly when the conversation is related to the task on which we are working. Speech we do not understand, such as speech in another language, has a significantly reduced disruptive effect.
2. Memory
Sound can have a negative effect on memory. Conversational noise makes it harder to remember. Other types of noise also have an effect, but to a lesser degree.
3. After-effects
Research into performance in both noisy and good sound environments does not always reveal significant differences. The reason is that, we try to compensate for the daily sound environment by increasing our concentration levels but we often pay the price for this afterwards. We become tired, listless and bad tempered and this, in turn, reduces performance and co-operation with other people.
 
Close-up of a young man, web rights onlyThere are many theories about how noise affects our performance in the office, based on how sound is received and processed by the central nervous system. The seven most common aspects of influence are:
1. Distraction
2. Activation level
3. Tunnel vision
4. Strategy
5. Ambition level
6. After-effects
7. Masking
 
 
1. Distraction
Humans react more or less instinctively to sound and always react to a new sound. Attention is thus diverted from the task and, quite simply; we are distructed. The effect can be that we miss important information, we could be interrupted in the middle of an important thought or just when we are getting a good idea.
2. Activation level
We are activated by sensory impressions to a certain limit, after that any activation is a disruption. This limit is individual and varies according to job, situation, type of impression, etc. Sometimes sounds can improve our work performance if, for example, we are performing a monotonous task with several repetitive actions such as painting a room or working on a machine.
3. Tunnel vision
Noise is a burden when we are deciding how we are going to perform a work task. According to the tunnel vision theory, a concept that also exists in the context of hearing, noise makes us cut ourselves off from some of the information available and this may mean we fail to select the best way to perform the task.
4. Strategy
Noise affects which strategy we use to solve a problem. When we are affected by noise we select our favourite strategy instead of looking for alternative, better or quicker methods and we stick firmly to our favourite strategy Ñ even if the conditions change and the noise stops.
5. Ambition level
Noise changes the workload. One way of solving this problem is to reduce one's ambition level, i.e. we perform a task without doing our very best.
6. After-effects
A reduction in the ability to perform is often greater after exposure to noise than during it. After-effects are the result of exhaustion which include tiredness, irritation and depression.
7. Masking
Noise masks verbal communication. Put simply, noise becomes a fog that "clouds our view" of what we are saying and what others are saying to us. A noisy environment requires greater effort, both from the speaker and the listener. It is particularly difficult when the listener has to concentrate on their work at the same time.
 
Our reactions as individuals are linked to the six characteristics that control our attitude to sound:
1. Information content
2. Ability to control the sound source
3. Predictability
4. Origin
5. Necessity
6. Personal relationship to the sound source
 
1. Information content
The meaning of the sound is very significant in terms of how we perceive it. This is why speech is particularly disruptive; especially if what is being said is connected to the task that we are working on. Other more emotional interpretations also play a major role. Certain sounds can tell us whether something unpleasant is happening, while others can be related to previous experiences.
2. Ability to control the sound source
It is easier to accept sounds we can control ourselves, for example by switching an appliance off or turning down the volume.
3. Predictability
Sound for which we are prepared is less disruptive than sound for which we are not prepared.
4. Origin
It is easier to put up with noise that is connected to what we are doing than to put up with noise caused by someone else.
5. Necessity
It is easier to accept unavoidable noise when we perceive the noise is necessary.
6. Personal relationship to the sound source
The sound from a computer and printer is less disruptive if we prefer to use a computer than if we prefer to write by hand.
 
Many investigations have been carried out into well being in the office. Virtually all of them reveal that employees experience one problem that is greater than all others: intrusive noise. Sound sources can be divided into four categories.
1. People's activities
2. Office machines
3. The building's installations
4. Outside the building
 
1. People's activities
Telephone conversations, particularly mobile phones or loudspeaker phones, are perceived by the office employee to causes most distraction. Then the noise from office machines and sounds related to people moving, such as footsteps and slamming doors. Conversations between people can also cause distraction.
2. Office machines
Office machines are getting quieter and quieter but, despite this, sound levels in offices have not been significantly reduced. The reason is that the number of office machines has increased dramatically. Faxes, computers, network units and printers, all have arrived on the scene in the last 20 years.
3. The building's installations
Many of the installations within a building generate disruptive noise. Such as ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems, plumbing installations and lifts. Noise from ventilation systems is considered to be particularly disruptive by many office workers. However, this is often seen as a necessary evil and this noise is not given much thought until the ventilation is switched off and difference is very apparent.
4. Outside the Building
External sounds often invade the office. The noise can be from cars, trains, aeroplanes, factories, building sites, harbours or military training areas. Traffic noise is the most common source of disturbance and, in this case the facade of the building, including windows and any ventilation openings, should have sufficient sound insulation. The choice of floor construction and coverings on floors, walls and ceilings are also significant in the potential muffling of external noise.
 
Three things that affect the working environment are related to the office building itself: sound, light and air. A lack of natural daylight can cause tiredness, headaches, loss of concentration, impaired vision and, muscle tension as we are forced to adopt incorrect and uncomfortable working positions. Poor air can cause skin problems, allergies, tiredness and headaches. Air temperature is also significant in terms or our well being.
 
As more and more people work in offices the interest in office noise is increasing. Half of the people working in the world today work in an office. It has been calculated that an office employee spends almost 90% of their time indoors or on the way to/or from the workplace. For this reason it is important for the working environment in general and the sound environment in particular to be as good as possible.
  • Visit website

    Visit website to discover the information about the best online casinos.

    findeurocasino.com



Offices - room by room

Ecophon official reference: office, quiet zone. Project: Connecta AB, Stockholm, Sweden. Architect: FFNS Arkitekter AB. Photo: Åke E:son Lindman. System: Focus E.

Find the right arguments and solutions for room types within Offices.

Ecophon Acoustic Bulletin

A news source for Ecophon partners in room acoustics