Avanta Serviced Office Group: Office Noise Costing UK Economy Millions

Avanta sound room

London, 9 February 2015: New research from Avanta Serviced Office Group has revealed that noise in the office environment is severely damaging the productivity of UK businesses.

Chatty co-workers, crunching crisps and slamming doors are familiar irritations in the workplace, but this research shows that rather than something to be ignored, these have a significant impact on productivity and staff motivation.

These findings underscore the relationship between the working environment and business productivity, at a time when the new ‘Avanta Sound Room’ is being trialled in Avanta’s Warwick Street, Covent Garden, Devonshire Square and Hammersmith offices.

The Avanta Sound Room is a working environment designed with the effect of ambient sound in mind, and has been created with world leading experts in the field of sound in the built environment, Julian Treasure and Chris Adair. It is the latest in a series of multi-sensory explorations into the effect of the ambient environment on office behaviour and productivity.

Julian Treasure, Chairman of The Sound Agency, is a globally renowned expert in how sound affects human beings; his five TED talks on sound have been viewed more than 20 million times on the Internet.

“The sound around us has a powerful effect on our psychological state, as well as on our cognitive ability and our social behaviour,” said Julian. “Intelligent sound design can help improve concentration, reduce fatigue and stress, and consequently create more productive working environments.”

Noisy workspaces may need damping down to the ideal level of 45-55 dB, while very quiet spaces may need masking sound to create some privacy and reduce distraction when colleagues take calls or converse. “Masking sounds are typically low density, requiring little attention, and pleasing to work in. Examples could be birdsong or gentle flowing water,” he said.

Chris Adair, Managing Director of Adair Acoustic Design, specialises in providing architectural and design solutions to tune sound.

Chris emphasises how the physical elements of the office can create a more productive space: “The effect of simple technology like sound absorbing panels, or even altering the orientation of a room, can turn an unworkable space into somewhere fit for function.

“By considering sound as an integral part of the workplace and taking some simple steps to mitigate the issues related to open plan working, employers will create a more motivated and productive workforce”.

Geraint Evans, Avanta Sales and Marketing Director, said: “We are always looking for new ways to help our community of growing businesses succeed and the importance of sound has been underlined by the research demonstrating the relation to productivity. We’re really excited about the Sound Room, particularly after the success of previous projects we’ve undertaken for our clients; namely the Avanta Aroma and the Light Room.“

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Julian Treasure and Chris Adair have collaborated with Avanta to install ‘Sound Rooms’ at four central London locations throughout January and February to demonstrate the power and effectiveness of designing working environments with the impact of sound in mind. These rooms are free to use for all clients, and are the latest in a sequence of multi-sensory working experiences from Avanta which previously displayed their commitment to going ‘beyond four walls’ with Avanta Aroma and the Light Room.

The research polled 1,000 office workers across the UK.

Key findings.

  • 82.5% of respondents report regularly being distracted by noise, nearly half (47.5%) of reassuringly stoic Brits choose to suffer in silence.
  • The impact of noise is particularly significant in open plan offices, impacting seven out of ten office workers in the country
  • Workers cite that noise environments cause productivity to decline by up to 66%.
  • 31% of workers have been driven out of the office due to excessive noise: either working from home or going to a local café or library.
  • Seasonal illnesses have a double whammy effect on productivity: nearly one in three (27%) of respondents are driven up the wall by coughing, sniffing and sneezing.

Appendix:

The UK’s most irritating office noises

Irritant Affected %
Conversations/ gossip 41.60%
Loud phone voices 33.30%
Coughing/ sneezing/ sniffing 27.80%
Ringing phone 23.10%
Loud snacking (crisp packets, etc.) 17.60%
Whistling 17.10%
Rhythmic tapping on the desk/ floor 14.70%
Slamming doors 14.20%
Bad music on the radio 13.70%
Music spilling out of colleagues headphones 13.50%
Loud typing 12.30%
Watching videos on computer without headphones 11.10%
Road noise/ sirens 10.50%
Colleagues speaking to themselves 9.90%
Vibrating mobile phones 7.90%
Air conditioning units 7.60%
Whirring computers 5.20%
Other 4.30%
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