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Why are office acoustics important?

office acoustics

Good acoustics play an important role in the office as they can boost productivity, reduce stress, and improve overall employee satisfaction. Poor acoustics, however, can lead to more distractions, difficulty concentrating, and increased stress levels.

Going back to the basics, acoustics is the applied science involved with the study and behavior of sound. But what exactly do we call “sound”? In physics, sound refers to a series of vibrations propagating in a transmission medium, which may be solid, liquid, or gas. We perceive a sound when these vibrations reach our ears.

Sound is a fundamental element of human perception and communication, and understanding how it is transmitted, reflected, or absorbed is important to workplace design.

What is the true cost of workplace noise?

The term “noise” means any audible sound that is unpleasant and causes us unwanted situations. Noise is one of the most common workplace problems and one of the key factors affecting employee performance, thus affecting the growth and profitability of an organization. From this point of view, noise has a real cost to a company, but it can be reduced or eliminated by studying and investing in workplace acoustics.

Disruption of workers’ concentration

According to a Steelcase study, workers lose an average of 86 minutes per day due to workplace noise distractions, which can significantly affect overall business productivity. Excessive noise, which can come from other people’s conversations, phone calls, equipment, or other sources, distracts employees from their tasks and disrupts their workflow. UC Irvine professor Gloria Mark reports that after each major interruption, it takes 23 minutes for workers to regain their full concentration.

Impact on health and wellbeing

Long-term noise exposure is a cause of stress and has been documented to contribute to various physical reactions and ailments. These include high blood pressure, weight loss, sleep disturbance, increased heart rate, and hearing loss. The noise in question does not have to be particularly loud: research shows that the dangerous level is only 65 dB, which is often recorded in busy offices, especially if they are open-plan.

Noise pollution can be physically exhausting, even if workers don’t realize it. Constant background noise can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and reduced energy levels during the workday, affecting overall employee well-being.

Ineffective communication

Noise can negatively affect communication in the workplace in a number of ways:

  • Difficulty understanding: Noise makes it more difficult to understand a conversation or a work assignment, as important information may be missed or misunderstood.
  • Distraction: Noise distracts workers from the message they are trying to receive or convey. This can lead to fragmented discussions and reduced participation in joint actions.
  • Increased effort: In a noisy environment, workers need to speak louder, repeat what they say, or make an effort to listen, which is undoubtedly tiring on a long-term basis.


How does good acoustics translate into practice?

There are two main ways to improve acoustics, directly related to the different acoustic needs of different spaces. For example, a closed meeting room needs soundproofing, to minimize the sound entering and leaving the space. On the other hand, an open-plan workplace may need soundproofing from external noises but it certainly also needs sound absorption, to reduce unwanted noise levels, from sounds produced within the space itself and with successive reflections degrade the acoustics. We have presented above some of the negative consequences of noise in the workplace. But what does effective office acoustics mean and what are the advantages for the company and the employees?

Increasing productivity

With the proper sound configuration of a space, without annoying reverberations, it becomes easier for employees to concentrate on work, and reduce distractions and health problems, such as stress and blood pressure. For the company, this means better performance, greater efficiency, and overall improved productivity.

Ensuring privacy

In an open-plan office environment or other common areas, conversations can be overheard by others, creating privacy issues and preventing open communication. By improving a room’s acoustics conversations are carried out effortlessly and, if necessary, remain confidential.

Enhancing well-being

The average person spends about a third of their life at work. This means that the right working conditions, including good acoustics, can cumulatively have a significant effect on workers’ well-being. A proper office design that combines visual aesthetics, sustainability, value for money, and the acoustics of the space is a substantial investment for the company. 


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Maximum sound absorption: 4 ways to achieve it

Sound absorption is the process by which the intensity of sound waves is reduced when they encounter an absorbent material. This reduces reflections and thus achieves better sound quality in a room. There are four ways to achieve maximum sound absorption:

Sound-absorbing panels and partitions

Sound-absorbing panels are an easy and quick way to improve a room’s acoustics. They effectively absorb sound and can be installed easily, without the need for major work. EKA Hellas offers a wide variety of sound-absorbing panels and partitions, which will also upgrade the visual aesthetics of the space where they are installed.

Sound-absorbing ceiling solutions

Sound-absorbing ceiling solutions include panels and surfaces in various sizes, thicknesses, and textures to meet different aesthetic and acoustic requirements. Some of their main properties are the following:

  • Sound absorption: Ceiling panels are designed to absorb sound and reduce noise levels in a room. They effectively limit reverberation and noise from external sources.
  • Durability: Sound-absorbing ceiling solutions are durable and do not wear out easily. They are also resistant to moisture and mold.
  • Easy installation: They are easily installed on a standard suspended ceiling grid or can be suspended from the ceiling. This makes them a cost-effective solution for improving the acoustics of a space.


Acoustic Furniture

Acoustic furniture are acoustic panels designed to be integrated into desks and absorb unwanted noise. They are a good solution, especially for open-plan offices with acoustic problems, as they can be chosen as the sole sound-absorbing solution in rooms with moderate noise levels or complement sound-absorbing wall and/or ceiling panels, offering even greater noise reduction and privacy at the same time.

Carpet tiles

Although not an obvious solution to the noise problem in a workplace, the choice of flooring can significantly affect the sound levels within the space. Soft floors, such as carpet tiles, are ideal in terms of sound absorption, unlike hard floors, which have no sound-absorbing properties. It is estimated that noise is reduced by about 20 dB if the floor is completely covered with carpet tiles.


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