It is a commonly accepted legal phrase to be “sound of mind and body” when referring to someone’s ability to think clearly and make rational and informed choices. This saying draws some interesting links, most likely unintentionally on behalf of the original writer, between sound and being able to think clearly. This is a simple enough concept to test yourself; just try reading something in a quiet environment and then try reading whilst playing music through some headphones. The reasoning is quite straightforward, the more noise that there is the more your brain has to process and then filter out so that you can concentrate on what you are actually trying to do. Noise is as much a pollutant as chemical waste and fuel emissions are; it just has a different effect, one that is more akin to light pollution in that it is perception based.
Silence is best?
This is not to say that all noise is bad for our ability to concentrate. There are plenty of well documented cases where music helps to focus and drive the mind to greater concentration, for example surgeons. Every surgeon will have their own preferred methodology when it comes to performing operations; however it is quite a common practice to play music whilst they work. The type of music will vary with the tastes and personality of the surgeon, but they will play it because they find it calming and it aids their concentration – something patients will no doubt be highly appreciative of.
In fact, studies have shown that a supreme lack of noise is actually damaging to the human psyche. Researchers have recently constructed a room that absorbs sound so efficiently and completely that you are able to hear you bones moving inside your body. It has become something of a challenge to stay in this room for as long as possible and no one has persisted beyond around half an hour. The sheer lack of noise is so alien and so unsettling to our minds that people cannot sustain it; it literally starts to drive them to distraction.
Striking a balance
This evidence tells us that a balance must be found between overtly distracting noise, and maddening silence. Working in an office where you could have your own choice of music playing whilst to work might well help a lot of people concentrate, but it is not a practical option given the amount of interaction that is necessary in most offices. So striking that balance of a quieter office without resorting to everyone working like they are in an exam should be the goal of any employer. Hopefully, after understanding the need for a balance, the reasons why office sound control is necessary should start to become apparent.
Installing a volume control
Obviously, it is not possible to manage every aspect of office noise on a personal level. You could employ an army of librarians to try and keep the noise down but this would not address the actual reasons that noise is a problem, even if it were remotely practical. There are various solutions on the market to help dampen the ambient noise found in busy work places; ceiling installations such as waves and baffles in particular can be effective in promoting office noise reduction. With this kind of unobtrusive installation fitted, the office space will have a naturally occurring volume limiter that will help keep things quieter. These technologies work by installing material composed of special noise absorbing foam, and by having the maximum amount of surface area exposed for the sound waves to make contact with. Once installed people may notice their presence, but it will provide zero disruption to the working day.
Having a lower and more managed noise level in a busy office or work environment is proven to help people concentrate more and as such be more effective and efficient at their jobs. This in turn leads to better results for the company and better prospects for its clients. On a more personal level, noise is also a proven contributing factor to stress and mental illness such as exhaustion and anxiety. Therefore having acoustic management technologies installed in your office space is not only benefitting the productivity and multitasking skills of your staff, you are also ensuring that their mental health is being reinforced as well.
With very reasonable costs, and products to suit every environment, there really no practical downside to choosing to install noise limited features to your offices. Why not take the plunge and see how things improve?