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WORKING IN A NOISY OPEN OFFICE: WHAT IMPACT ON EMPLOYEES? HOW TO DIAGNOSE AND PREVENT NOISE AT WORK?


Open-plan office: advantages and disadvantages
Evaluate irritation related to noise with the GABO questionnaire
Psycho-social impacts of noise on employees
Working in a noisy open office: how to protect employees?

The concept of the open-plan office divides and is regularly questioned. While some are announcing the death of open workspaces with the arrival of Covid-19, several studies show that professionals are still attached to them. According to a survey published by Ifop in December 2020, 63% of employees in France want to work again most of the time in the office.

 

The open-plan: a space full of life and creativity, but which also promotes noise


When BureauxLocaux asked 350 professionals about their motivations to return to the office, 66% indicated that they wanted to move forward on projects and collaborate with their teams. This is not yet the main reason cited since 71% of them replied that their need was above all social, that they wanted to see their colleagues and exchange with them face-to-face.

40% of French workers consider social ties and relationships with their collaborators as sources of happiness in the office.

If the home has become a place of work, the office must now become a place of life. As Danièle Linhart, a sociologist at the CNRS explains, “Being deprived of others and the concrete place that symbolizes cooperation leads to the loss of the meaning of work in its social dimensions”. Working in open-plan offices encourages contact, collaboration and creativity, but also increases noise, already well known as one of the biggest problems with these workplaces. So how do you know if the noise level in your office is beyond acceptable? Standards, questionnaires and other individual solutions available to companies exist.

bruit en open-space

 

Evaluate the irritation related to noise with the GABO questionnaire


The French INRS GABO questionnaire is a useful tool for companies wishing to measure the annoyance associated with noise in open offices. It identifies this discomfort through four major themes.

Employee satisfaction regarding their work environment is measured according to two criteria: privacy (ability to control one’s environment) and comfort. The sound environment of the workplace: what is the perception of noise intensity and annoyance? The questionnaire pays particular attention to the five types of noise cited as the most irritating: telephone ringing, equipment noise, intelligible or unintelligible conversations and passing noises. The relationship of individuals to noise in general, which depends on each sensitivity and hearing imprint. Finally, the employees’ perception of their physical or mental health, stress and pain. 

What lessons have been learned from this questionnaire on the impact of a noisy open office since it was made available? 

 

Working in a noisy open office: what impact on employees?


The responses to the INRS survey show that the factors related to noise are highly correlated with satisfaction. They come before those associated with temperature, the quality of lighting or even air circulation. Other studies, notably carried out by Ifop, highlight the increase in psychosocial risks or the loss of productivity linked to noise in open spaces.

1- Dissatisfaction and irritability

More than 80% of employees in the tertiary sector complain about noise in the office. In particular, the noise of conversations between colleagues or on the telephone. Ringing tones are considered to be the most annoying sound at work. Daily exposure to these noises therefore increases the dissatisfaction of employees who have difficulties concentrating and become more irritable. It can also, in some cases, create tensions between employees in the same workspace.

2- Stress and fatigue

The majority of French people (94%) think that noise has direct effects on their health. Work and transport are the main places where they feel particularly affected by it. For 8 out of 10 active workers at work, these sounds cause fatigue, loss of attention and headaches.

bruit en open-space : quel impact

3- Performance

According to a survey published by the JNA association, an active worker loses on average thirty minutes of work per day because of annoyance related to noise. This situation generates a high social cost.

“It is possible to estimate that six million working people individually lose at least 120 hours per year of work”, says the association. Insee estimated in 2008 that the average cost per hour was at 32€. Thus, 3,840 euros per active worker would be lost for the company per year.

4- Desertion of the workplace

Moving into open-plan offices has direct effects on companies, with an increase in requests for teleworking and an overbooking of meeting rooms by employees seeking to concentrate. Another side effect: employees who are most sensitive to noise tend to isolate themselves completely with unsuitable equipment (earplugs, headphones, etc…), which undermines the collaboration sought by opening the workspace.

How to protect employees from a noisy open office


Reducing noise is becoming crucial in the office to ensure the well-being and performance of professionals. Here are some tips to promote their concentration, their productivity and protect them.

1- AFNOR’S standard for auditing the noise level

The acoustic standard NF S31-199 from AFNOR (French association for standardization) makes recommendations on the noise levels to be observed in open spaces, in order to support companies in this process.

2- Collective acoustic solutions to act at the building level

Sound insulation is useful in order to minimize or avoid the circulation of sound in a building. It reduces the direct and indirect transmission of noise through walls, partitions, floors or ceilings. However, each building is specific, so tests and diagnostics have to be carried out to have recommendations adapted to the premises. Certain companies offer to help firms with their projects in order to bring good results and create optimal sound comfort for their employees. However, these acoustic projects are expensive and do not necessarily adapt to the various hearing sensitivities of professionals. This is why it is also important to find appropriate solutions at the individual level.

3- Professional noise-cancelling headphones: an effective individual solution for focusing in a noisy open office

s'isoler du bruit en open-space grace aux casques ANC

An individual solution, more and more popular with companies and their employees, are headphones or earbuds with active noise reduction. These devices help to attenuate surrounding noise, giving the possibility of being fully focused. Very useful when 95% of employees say they are disturbed in open offices due to conversations between colleagues, the ringing of phones or even machine noise (INRS).

Some high-end ANC headsets, such as the TILDE® range, also incorporate new technology allowing the user to reduce noise while preserving communication. A solution that meets a need well known to business professionals: to find a balance between isolation and collaboration.  

Discover the noise-cancelling TILDE® VOICE FIRST Headphones

Designed and made in France, the TILDE® PRO is particularly suitable for intensive telephony activities. 

✓ Detachable boom-microphone and ear pads
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✓ Bluetooth 5.0, USB-audio and Jack audio option
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Designed in France, the TILDE® AIR is an ultra-light product, perfect for concentrating wherever you work. 

✓ Flexible and lightweight design (40g)
✓ Wireless telephony (Bluetooth)
✓ Tilde® noise-free face-to-face conversations
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