Providing an open office atmosphere is a proven strategy that promotes unity and encourages collaboration by team members, but the unintended consequences should be considered; noise is undoubtedly distracting, reduces concentration levels and for others limits conversation.
With ringing phones, cell phones, email notifications, printers & multiple conversations… Productivity suffers when employees struggle to concentrate in noisy spaces with minimal privacy.
Noise in the workplace is one of the most common influencers on work productivity and performance.
According to Lorraine Maxwell from the department of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University, noise severely affects our moods and ability to work and concentrate. It also leads to stress, and reading comprehension and memory are the most sensitive to noise. It therefore impairs workers' ability to focus on difficult tasks and increases the amount of errors we make while working.
This doesn't mean we need to do away with the creative open workspace and separate employees back into individual cubicles;
Businesses can help to reduce unwanted noise;
They can mask the sound by increasing background noise by adding a continuous, low-level ambient sound to an environment, e.g. white noise, or Music. Words that are incomprehensible are less likely to be distracting. Thereby sound masking can help make conversations for listeners that aren't intended to hear them unintelligible, and therefore much easier to ignore.
Incorporate materials that absorb sound such as carpeting can help minimize noise. Those with the budgets to get more creative can consider decorating walls with soundproofing materials and unique pieces of art.
Introduce plants into the design. Plants have sound absorbing capabilities that can work just as effectively in an indoor environment as they do in the outdoors. Besides improving the oxygen levels, other studies also found that a 'view of nature' makes workers less frustrated, more patient, more productive, and physically healthier.
Allocating a dedicated quite space where employees can go to when requiring concentration on an important task or project. A 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that workers lost as much as 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions.
Attaching multiple level storage options and partitions; as depicted in the picture showing the Workzone Plan B Benching system, helps to buffer sound and still offers clear lines of sight for interactive teamwork.
The pursuit of open spaces for brainstorming, collaboration, and the flow of work processes in an open planned office have quite a few justifications. However, balance is vital to long-term success. By balancing enclosed areas with open spaces increases employee satisfaction and productivity, a company may find the investment more than worth it.