However research has identified ‘noise’ as a likely cause of employee dissatisfaction, low motivation and reduced performance and irritation.
There are several methods for controlling and solving acoustic problems and are summarised by the acronym ABC:
A – Absorb
Describes the absorption of sound waves by suitable materials.
The placement of acoustic absorption is vital in an office environment to absorb sound and prevent the space from becoming excessively reverberant. The placement of absorption materials on surfaces does not affect direct voice sound but it will reduce reflections off hard surfaces and in turn reduce general noise levels.
When sound waves enter a porous absorber, the vibrations of fibres and air pockets result in energy being lost in the form of heat. The type of absorption must be approximately 20mm thick to target energy at speech frequencies.
B – Block
Describes the alteration of the sound path using screens, panels, walls etc.
To interrupt sound on its path across an open plan space or office, a suitable barrier has to be placed between the source and the receiver. The barrier should be suitably dense and tall to prevent sound travelling through it or to minimise sound travelling over and around it.
C – Cover
Describes the use of a system which produces background sound like white noise systems and speech privacy systems.
Some noise in the working environment such as air-conditioning units are classed as ‘steady noise’ and can be advantageous as it provides a background to aid speech privacy and hence provides an environment where confidential conversations can be held without being overheard.
“It is easier to habituate to constant noise than to variable noise” (Kjellberg Landstrom, Tesarz, Soderberg & Akerlund, 1996)