The corporate landscape is dotted with visually beautiful offices that no one wants to work in. They represent theoretical perfection in the way they maximize space and encourage a collaborative environment but the companies that run these offices have a hard time retaining quality employees. But why is that? More often than not it’s due to the fact that these “leading edge” office designs employ an open plan that turns the workplace into a noise factory. While they may look good and seem to make an important statement about the company’s egalitarian attitude working shoulder to shoulder with everyone else often drives workers to distraction and has a negative effect on productivity.
The Perils of Wide Open Spaces
While open office plans often look good on paper and sound good during the interview process they tend to lose their lustre once new hires settle into their place at the workbench. Noise bombards them from every direction including in-person conversations, phone conversations, internet videos, music, foot traffic and the low level hum of various office productivity tools like desktops, laptops, copiers and the like.
Studies have shown that noise levels in a typical large open plan office can reach a sustained 65 decibels. While that’s not the ear splitting 100 or so decibels of a rock concert it is enough to undermine productivity for every member of the staff at all hours of the day. In fact scientists believe that work which requires a high degree of intellectual engagement cannot be effectively performed if sound levels are more than 55 decibels. So unless your company sells paperclips it will likely suffer due to noise in the open-plan environment.
Office Wall Partitions to the Rescue
So how do you retain the positive elements of the open plan office without subjecting your workforce to noise levels that will have them searching Internet job boards? By installing wall partitions from IMT Modular. With our office wall partitions you can retain those things that work about the open plan office while discarding the noise that acts like an anchor on productivity and innovation. Here’s how:
- By providing quiet spaces – Balance is the key when it comes to any office plan. You need to provide the hive as well as the sanctuary. Quiet spaces are essential for staff members engaged in problem solving or simple brainstorming. Because while it may be handy to be able to lean over and ask the person next to you a question there are times when you simply need to focus. Quiet spaces are often where the hard work of business is hammered out and office wall partitions can create them for you with little effort.
- By carving out designated loud spaces – As we said those quiet areas are crucial but so are those spaces where your worker bees can have unfettered access to each other and kick ideas around without having to worry that they’re interfering with other important work being conducted in the office. “Loud” spaces can be created either positively – by installing partitions around the particular area in question – or negatively, by using office partitions to create specific quiet areas and leaving the rest of the space for no-holds barred collaboration.
- By channelling noise away from certain areas – Sometimes you don’t need to create cloistered spaces within the office. Sometimes you simply need to manage sound better. A group may be doing outstanding work all clustered around a series of benches but if their conversations, brainstorming sessions and general commiserating is disruptive to those nearby a few strategically placed office wall partitions from IMT Modular can contain the noise they generate and even funnel it away toward a neutral area.
- By breaking up space but retaining the openness – Not directly related to noise reduction but still important is the need to retain the open quality of your open plan office while still making it a more agreeable place to work. Do this by installing office wall partitions of crystal clear glass. In this way you’ll create very real separation between departments or workgroups while retaining sightlines and that beautiful natural light.
Other ways you can aid in reducing unwanted noise in your office include:
- Covering up that concrete floor – If your space has concrete or tile floors you may want to consider carpeting the space. Yes, carpet will require more maintenance than a plain concrete floor but it will also drastically reduce the noise levels in your space which will help improve everyone’s productivity.
- Adding greenery – As anyone who has spent time basking in the peace and quiet of the forest will attest plants are some of the greatest natural sound absorbers there are. Take advantage of this (and enjoy the other benefits of office greenery as well) by introducing as many plants as you can comfortably get away with in your office. You’ll go a long way toward reducing reflected sounds that can be such an immense distraction and your office will look and smell better.
- Encouraging the use of headphones – Few things are as distracting in an open office as other people’s musical choices. While everyone has a right to like what they will they don’t have a right to impose it on their co-workers who are trying to get work done. Encourage the use of headphones in the office, or better yet, make it mandatory for anyone listening to music during work hours.
Open office plans are lauded by some designers yet loathed by many forced to deal with the nonstop cacophony of white noise and unwanted interruptions that they produce. Office wall partitions from IMT Modular will allow you to retain the positive aspects of the open office while at the same time ditching the unwanted noise. The result will be happier workers, reduced churn and enhanced productivity all around. To learn more about how office partitions can help reduce the odious effects of the open plan office talk to one of our office design specialists.