Working in a shared or open-plan office is considered the norm, yet a survey of 2000 workers has revealed that a lack of acoustic treatment in these spaces is having a negative impact on employee productivity.
Almost 80% of those surveyed work in open plan or shared offices. When asked what they thought about the current acoustic environment in their office, more than half of respondents (54%) said working in an open-plan workspace sometimes makes it difficult for them to concentrate and do their job.
Two thirds (62%) of those surveyed are also bothered by the lack of privacy that open-plan offices provide, with a further 42% of respondents claiming that they don’t have access to private or quiet rooms at all.
With more than half of respondents (52%) spending more than 40% of their time on concentrated tasks, 51% also say that they get disturbed by other teams.
Paige Hodsman, office concept developer for Ecophon, which commissioned the survey and is a division of materials company Saint-Gobain, comments:
“Open plan offices are by far the most established way of working but there’s always been controversy surrounding the impact this type of design has on workers. If workers are regularly disturbed by noise it will undoubtedly have a negative impact on their concentration, causing employers to lose hours a week in reduced performance and productivity.
“Unfortunately, this survey shows that the issue of acoustics still isn’t being properly addressed in open-plan office design even though ambient noise has been proven to cause a reduction in productivity by a staggering 66%*.
“Although much has been done to improve the acoustic quality of school classrooms and many recognise the impact this has had, little has been done in extending this knowledge to the office environment and helping to resolve these common yet costly issues for businesses and their employees.”
Ecophon is calling for architects and designers to consider acoustic treatment and other factors such as temperature and air quality, alongside other challenges such as changing technology, environmental issues and facilitating flexible working practices as a holistic approach to modern office design.