The role played by acoustics and noise in the workplace is often underestimated and little understood, but the impact of noise pollution on the cognitive abilities of people in the workplace is profound and can impact workers in a variety of ways.
Human beings have only recently (in evolutionary terms) made the switch from working and living outdoors to an indoor existence – our brains have not been able to catch up. At any one point in time, only 10% of our brains thought pattern is conscious, the remaining 90% is rooted in our evolutionary history.
The human ear works with our brain as a primary detector of threat – In practice, this means that it tunes into sounds which cannot be seen and attempts to evaluate the threat sub-consciously. The human can control and assess what is immediately in front of them but needs time to react and plan a course of action to sounds which are further away. In the workplace, this means that people are easily distracted by the voices of others, phone calls being made on the other side of the room and loud conversations.
Workers in noisy environments exert symptoms of stress, poor mental and physical health such as increased cortisol levels and high blood pressure. This leads to reduced job satisfaction, increased absenteeism and reduced productivity.
In order to reduce the damage done by poor acoustics, the workplace can be treated in several different ways at both the point of design or retrospectively. The aim of acoustic treatments is to reduce the reverberation time in the room and reduce the transfer of sound between areas. Sound waves come in different frequencies (KHZ) and the efficacy of different materials at treating different sounds differs, a solution must consider high and low frequencies to be truly effective.
Effectively managing the acoustics of a room can create the following benefits: