Office noise: Fixing the biggest productivity killer in coworking

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Bad workplace acoustics are one of the most common complaints in offices today. In a recent survey of 1,000+ U.S. office workers, we found that “quiet spaces” are one the most in-demand workplace perks. And that demand grows even stronger among people who work in modern open office settings — and coworking spaces. When it comes to bad acoustics in the workplace, there are two key culprits: open-plan offices and industrial design, which tends to favor materials like glass, concrete and metal  — all of which are terrible at dampening ambient noise. “Most architects or designers aren’t paying attention to the damaging potential of environmental noise,” the acoustic expert Julian Treasure tells Interior Design. “There are certain properties of sound — the RAT (reflect, absorb, transmit) of acoustics and the ABCs (absorb, block, cover) of noise control — that should help architects pick the right surfaces and coverings to achieve a pitch-perfect space,” Treasure says. One of the easier things to do to manage noise in co-working settings is to offer separate spaces for social activities and quiet heads-down work. As important as it is to have access to quiet space, it’s also helpful to create social areas where people can connect, collaborate and socialize. Communal social spaces also give people a dedicated place to talk and socialize, which helps keep distractions to a minimum in the actual workplace. Softer materials, like carpet, along with partitions to block sound can make a big difference. Moreover, people value the privacy and quiet simple things like desk partitions offer. In our survey, 67% of respondents to our survey reported that barriers to block noise like desk partitions are important. Plants in the office offer more than an aesthetic break and some nice greenery — they can also help break up ambient noise.

This article helps to confirm the necessity of noise control in communal workspace, as well as other inferences I have made through the research phase. Understanding the designers role in creating a productive work environment is discussed and highlights the importance of material usage and arrangement of work stations, including wall partitions and plant usage.