Noise and productivity at work are an inseparable pair – the former affects the latter by decreasing focus, making it more difficult to cooperate, and even leading to chronic fatigue. In this article, we explore the connection between background noise and efficiency and propose solutions to combat this problem. Whether you’re a manager looking for ways to improve productivity at your workplace, or an employee seeking ways to improve your performance, you need to read this article – the information here will help you achieve your goals.
Noise and Productivity at Work: The Consequences
We shall begin with how noise may affect productivity at work, enlisting the most severe consequences of a too loud work environment. These include:
- Smaller focus – While white noise can be beneficial if not too loud – it kills off other sounds – irregular noises, like cars honking, printers spitting sheets of paper, or co-workers chatting, have a powerful and negative impact on focus. Each of such noises attracts our attention and distracts us. As a result, we take more time to complete tasks and are more likely to make errors.
- Hindered cooperation – The more noise there is, the more difficult it is to hear what the other person is saying. This means that brainstorming, planning or even consulting our colleagues becomes a struggle and requires much more time, thus reducing our productivity.
- Chronic fatigue – Sound pollution is a thing, though we’re often unaware of it. The more noisy a space is, the more exhausting it becomes to work in it. As a result, we become tired to such an extent that even sleep cannot solve the problem. This leads to us being less productive overall, and only a longer rest, like a vacation, can get us back to full power.
- Hearing impairment – Long exposure to loud noise can lead to problems with hearing, which also affect productivity, both directly and indirectly. Firstly, they can cause you as an employee to visit doctors more often, draining out your paid sick leave while making collaboration with colleagues even more difficult since you won’t always hear everything at first time. For employers, on the other hand, it translates to fewer tasks done weekly. It’s a slow process, but its impact on productivity is significant in the long run.
- Stress – One of the psychological effects of silence is that it reduces stress, thus, naturally, the opposite happens when an environment is noisy. While a low stress level does give us a boost, when it becomes too high (which is likely when it’s noisy), it raises our blood pressure and heart rate, making us less motivated and less energized and increasing the chances of professional burnout.
- Worse ergonomics – According to the study by Evans and Johnson, high noise levels lead to employees correcting their posture less often. This results in lower comfort and higher chances of musculoskeletal disorders and related visits to a hospital, which further impairs efficiency in the workplace.
Noise and Productivity at Work: Prevention
Thankfully, measures are available that can help you reduce noise levels in the workplace and avoid the consequences of noise on productivity. The main one of which is: soundproofing.
Acoustic panels, acoustic foam, special rugs, mats, screens, or curtains may significantly reduce the amount of noise in a workplace – no matter whether you work remotely or run a large office. To add to that, using them is quite simple.
All you need to do is purchase good soundproofing materials and install them in the office. You can choose from various solutions, often coming in different visual designs, so you’ll find one matching your decor. The only potential obstacle here is not overdoing them – with too many acoustic panels or rugs, you will reduce sound quality and decrease speech intelligibility.
Another alternative is to use white noise to cover all the irregular sounds. However, it’s a solution that won’t always work – it won’t be effective if those noises are too loud.
Finally, you can opt for office pods or home booths. These are comfortable, fully soundproof spaces where you or your employees can work in complete silence. What’s more, unlike the common belief, such booths don’t only come in single-person versions – you may order one that can even accommodate up to 10 people, so they are definitely an option worth considering.
Noise and productivity are strongly related. The more unwanted sounds there are in the workplace, the less productive you or your employees are. Therefore, it’s crucial for companies to invest in soundproofing solutions – they will quickly pay off in higher efficiency.
Did you like this article? Then we suggest that you read our other post: 6 Interesting Facts About Soundproofing
Evans, G. W., & Johnson, D. (2000). Stress and open-office noise. The Journal of applied psychology, 85(5), 779–783. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.85.5.779