Although the concept of noise pollution is widely used in public debate, do we really know what it means? Nowadays, we are exposed to the negative effects of noise, especially in the workplace, where we spend a large part of our day. How can we minimize noise pollution in the office and why is it so important?
Noise as an environmental pollutant
Noise pollution is a serious problem that is a sign of our times. Road, rail, air traffic, as well as sounds related to industry or tourism (and not only) increasingly interfere with the functioning of society. Noise pollution can be defined as excessive exposure to sounds and noises with an intensity above 65 decibels (dB), which is the threshold established by the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to estimates, 360 million people worldwide suffer from some form of hearing loss, which poses a serious threat to public health. Moreover, long-term exposure to excessive noise can result in sleep disorders, migraines, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and of course hearing problems. The consequences also concern the mental sphere – stress, anxiety, difficulty in sleeping, and even depression are just some of them. According to the World Health Organization, noise is the second most important environmental cause of poor health, after smog, and causes about 16,600 premature deaths annually in Europe.
Noise pollution in the office
Noise in the workplace is a factor to which we are exposed every day and certainly is not comfortable for anyone. In offices, especially in open spaces, there are many people at the same time – conversations, phones, or the sound of a printer and coffee machine are largely generated by the employees themselves. It is not surprising that when the intensity is high, it becomes inconvenient and carries health consequences. The permissible noise level in office work is determined by the Polish standard PN-N-01307:1994, which provides for 55 decibels for administrative premises, offices intended for conceptual work, data analysis, etc., and 65 for various types of secretariats and customer service offices. The decibel level ensuring acoustic comfort for employees should be maintained at a level of 35-40 decibels. For comparison, an average conversation has about 40-50 decibels.
The effects of noise pollution in the workplace
Excessive exposure to noise can have a negative impact on employees’ well-being. Studies of work environments and noise measurements at workstations indicate that even 55-60 decibels filling an office space can discourage employees from taking on professional challenges. This level also affects our concentration. Continuous exposure to noise can also make us nervous and irritable, and we may have trouble sleeping at night. These mechanisms can create a vicious cycle of fatigue and frustration. However, this is not all – such noise increases stress levels, which can lead to conditions such as nervousness, peptic ulcer disease, or arterial hypertension. There are many more consequences, so it is worth knowing how to prevent them and minimize their impact.
Ways to reduce noise pollution in the office
Although we cannot completely eliminate noise pollution in the workplace, we can have a real impact on reducing it, or at least on some of the factors that cause it. First and foremost, office design and conceptual ergonomics are essentials. Good acoustics in the office are essential. It is important to limit external sounds (such as moving vehicles) but also to properly soundproof each room. There are currently many products on the market that effectively absorb sound, reducing excessive noise, such as partition walls. Innovative solutions include acoustic cabins and telephone booths. . Such choices will allow anyone who needs it to find a space where they can cut off all noise, which positively affects concentration and productivity. Almost every modern open space office is equipped with such acoustic booths.
It is also worth ensuring that the equipment generates as little unnecessary noise as possible. Replace fans for ventilation with silent air conditioning. Although this seems like a small noise, the constant sound of this type of equipment can also cause irritation. Special soundproofing should apply to places where loud equipment is located, such as a kitchen with a coffee machine and a microwave, or a conference room.
The basis for maintaining relative quietness is the cooperation of people in the office. We should not forget about mutual respect and that we are not alone at work. Let’s leave loud conversations with a colleague at the desk next to us during lunch break, and let listening to music be only with headphones. Such common rules will make everyone feel more comfortable, and work will proceed without disruption.