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30 - Sep - 2019

Health and wellbeing in the workplace

Noise pollution & the effects on employee workplace wellness

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Noise pollution is serious.  The Chief Medical Officer in England says it is second only to air pollution in damaging public health and has been linked to issues such as tinnitus, heart disease, sleep disturbance, obesity, diabetes and more.  Unfortunately, there is little shelter from noise and many of us are subject to it throughout our working day.

The boom in open-plan offices has exacerbated things; 70% of workplaces have now adopted this style.  Supposedly popular amongst management for its collaborative atmosphere (but usually its cost effectiveness) the open-plan office layout can be an acoustics nightmare for all those working there; affecting their health and wellbeing day in, day out.

With no walls or barriers to separate employees, noise is free to carry through the office.  Loud tapping at keyboards, noisy eaters having lunch at their desk, the office gossips and people discussing the latest report will create a sound ‘cocktail’ that will see productivity crash.  Average noise levels in UK offices is 54db, above the recommended 45dB.

Workplace wellbeingInvestec offices treated with SonaSpray K-13 mid grey. Credit to fit out & refurbishment experts We Are BW.

So what does this mean for employees? 

First of all, excessive noise will make it much harder to get any work done with some studies stating that poor acoustics make employees 66% less productive.  Many of us will try and use music to block out distracting noise, however this raises levels by 9dB and music, especially if it has a lot of lyrics and can be even more distracting.  Three-quarters of staff have said they need to take walks outside to try and regain focus during working hours because of excess noise.

Noise is proven to cause stress which can lead to a range of health issues such as hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.  People who work in open-plan offices take 70% more sick days than home workers so it’s not hard to imagine how this amount of staff taking days off will tank a company’s productivity.  More alarmingly though, is the effect on the wellbeing of employees.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in 2011 that noise pollution contributed to 1.7m years of life lost in Europe.  Unknown to many, but excessive noise will also make you more likely to slouch.  If you have poor posture throughout your working day, it’s possible that you could develop musculoskeletal disorders causing pain and discomfort throughout your life.

How can we improve health and wellbeing in the workplace?

Thankfully there is now a push for designing workspaces not only for their appearance but more importantly the experience for its inhabitants as well.  More designers are looking to create working environments that are fit for purpose and can help improve an employee’s health and wellbeing along with their productivity and social behaviours. 

We have the most extensive range of acoustic solutions to help you get your office acoustics right, protecting your staff’s wellness and their productivity in the workplace.  Whether it be for a fit-out, refurbishment or new build, taking office acoustics seriously and removing distractions caused by excess noise will ensure these workspaces sound as good as they look with a welcoming and calm atmosphere.

Speak to an acoustics expert