Stressed young female corporate employee having migraine at unproductive briefing. Business woman got headache from stressful meeting, coworkers not collaborating. Female executive sick from stress.
Stressed young female corporate employee having migraine at unproductive briefing. Business woman got headache from stressful meeting, coworkers not collaborating. Female executive sick from stress.

Støj på Kontoret – Hvordan Minimeres Støj og Etableres et Produktivt Arbejdsmiljø?

Noise problems in the office - How to reduce noise and establish a productive work environment.

Støj på Kontoret

Noise in the office comes in many forms and can be difficult to reduce. But what is noise and how do we minimize it?

Don’t you worry, we have your back!

In this article we will help you fight the office noise, maintain a healthy and productive work environment while avoiding clashes with your colleagues.  

Do you know? Facts about noise

  • According to a 2015 survey of the most annoying office noises by Avanta Serviced Office Group, conversations were rated the most vexing, closely followed by coughing, sneezing, and sniffing, loud phone voices, ringing phones and whistling.
  • Hearing health Foundation reports that Hearing loss is the 2nd most prevalent health issue globally.
  • A study conducted by Sound Agency found that when an office implemented sound-masking technology, there was a 46% improvement in its workers concentration.
  • Arbejdstilsynet har en støjbelastning på ikke mere end 85 dB(A) eller peak værdier af impulser over 137 dB(C).a

How does office noise affect productivity?

According to A British Journal of Psychology study, 1998,office noise is a productivity killer.

It may sound banal, but did you know that by being exposed to a nearby conversation, employees can be up to 66% less productive.

A calm and non-disturbing work environment is obviously preferred to enhance focus, productivity, and wellbeing at the office. It will result in happy employees, healthy relationships among them thus increasing employee retention rate.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend maintaining environmental noises below 70 dBA over 24-hours (75 dBA over 8-hours) to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

But how do you really know if there is too much noise? It can be difficult to grasp how much 70 db. is to an everyday office employee. To help you understand different levels of noise and to put the sound levels into relief, the following illustration may help you:

picture showing different levels of decibel

When all this is said, it’s important to also mention, that different people react differently to noise. Some people are more sensitive than others, making them irritated and disturbed more quickly. 

But also on a physical level, pain and hearing injuries may occur at different db. levels and on different frequencies. In worst-case scenarios all it takes is one very high sound level (most likely above 130 db.) and it can permanently affect one’s hearing. 

And we certainly don’t want that, so what is next?

How to reduce office noise?

Noise can be controlled and reduced but never to an absolute zero db. In the office, there will usually be footsteps, doors closing, keyboard typing and other sounds that may disrupt your concentration.

No matter how often, you will most likely never get used to a door being slammed. However, we can work on the surrounding to minimize noises.

So, in the following we introduce 7 steps that can help you in your quest to control and reduce noise at the office. Hopefully this will make you happy, motivated, and even more productive – your boss will love you for it!

Step 1. Define your office:

Before you invest any efforts and money on changing the physical structure of your office space, lets figure out a few things relating to your office and company. Here are some of the questions you can ask to yourself:

  • Is your office open or closed? (Walls or no walls?)
  • What type of walls (wooden, concrete, gypsum)?
  • Lots of different cultures? (Cultures equals differences, which also applies to work and noise culture)
  • How many employees per square meter?
  • What type of company and industry?

Comparatively, closed offices are quieter than open offices.

There are walls to close off areas/departments, several rooms with walls that act as barriers and helps to absorb noise. However, in open offices, the sound is moving around freely.

Imagine you work in a call center with 100 fellow phoners in a 200 sqm of office space, having colleagues answering calls every 2 seconds. The sound now affects not only yourself and employees, but also the persons in the other end of the line – the customer – that may be disturbed by the surrounding noise.

This hampers the healthy conversation and the customers’ experience.

Step 2: Add interior to your office

As mentioned, most objects act as a barrier to absorb or bounce sound waves, but some materials absorb better than others. If your office walls are empty, you can add materials like posters or paintings which will help absorb sound instead of reflecting it.

Don´t leave your floor naked! Add carpets and dense rugs to the floor.
In comparison to any other flooring materials, carpets can absorb 10 times more noise. Add thick long coverage curtains on windows and glass meeting rooms or even add blinds. This will help with more than just the sound 😊

Lastly, remember to add plants and furniture of your choice- the more the merrier.

Not satisfied with the tips above? Read on, we have more for you!

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Step 3: Add soundproofing materials

It’s quite popular to add more density to the walls and ceiling with soundproofing materials such as soundproofing boards. This could be a drywall with added mass loaded vinyl, or it could be dense sound-blocking foam. 

Especially soundproofing boards often go well with most interior and therefore shouldn’t cause too much harm to your overall interior design – making sure you won’t get in trouble with any colleagues interested in design!

But do have in mind, that the larger the office, the more areas to cover and soundproof. So obviously, you will need materials in larger quantity and people to set it up. But here’s the good news; if you don’t have the resources or the willingness to do it yourself, our handy department can help you.

Step 4: Communication tools

Introduce specified communication tools for the internal communication within the company. Microsoft teams, WhatsApp, Outlook, and Slack are often used for these purposes. 

Try one of the above or look for the many other alternatives on the market. These tools can not only heighten your internal communication processes, but also help to reduce the talk and chitchat at the office. 

In the end, you can still choose to have the chat over the coffee – but only when you want to :) This leads to our next step…

Step 5. Reduce the office talk

It’s not always easy to work in a company with multiple, different cultural values. Most international companies share this hurdle. We recommend making basic office rules which include respecting everyones privacy. 

While having established rules, it can still be difficult to enforce them and keep the noise down. That’s where nudging comes in. Nudge your colleagues with posters.

The image portrays a girl shushing somebody

You can also add dividers between each desk to reduce the talk with your neighbor. Basically, make it less convenient for people to speak to the person next to him or her.

Step 6: Schedule specific work-from-home days

During Covid companies started to allow working from home. Many still allow it which helps to avoid crowded office spaces that in return create quiet surroundings.

But what if you made it a regular thing? Consider introducing working-from-home-days for certain parts of your company on specific days. For example, in a company with 100 employees, 20 people work from home Mondays and the next day 20 different people do same. As a bonus, you may even get higher efficiency employees.

Step 7: Build a new office…

You tried every step above and the noise is still killing your productivity? Time to bring out the big guns: design and build a new office space. One way is setting up new soundproof walls with engineered designs. 

In this regard, consider the time spent and the quality of materials. Gypsum combined with rockwool inside is fairly cheap and quick to set up. It helps to absorb sound better than concrete or harder materials but is also easy and quick to be taken down again, for example in the case of moving to another office. 

Building small rooms for meeting, general discussion, phone calls and personal space is a great way to divert conversations to specific rooms, reduce talk and noise in the open office spaces.

Most importantly, as mentioned earlier, these newly build rooms/walls will act as sound barriers and seek to contain sounds but also absorb some of it. 

Christo cutting board to put on the wall for sounfproof

Last but not the least

Change office space. No joke.

As mentioned, when defining the office, the amount of employees per square meter is important. Take into consideration whether you have been outgrowing your current office space. You can do all the above steps, but at some point, there will be too many people in too little space.

Good luck with combating the noise at your workplace!

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