Designing Workspaces For Better Productivity
“You’re sitting in your cubicle busy working on a client proposal that you need to discuss with your boss in the evening. A cellphone ring interrupts your train of thought. The person in the next cubicle answers the phone in a loud voice forgetting that nearly everything he says can be heard from 10 cubes away. You put on your headphones and turn on some music to block the noise but to no avail. Soon, you feel like banging your head against the wall.” This is a story which happens in many offices across the country today. But why is that nothing gets done, is it because we accept “noise” as a given in our daily lives.
Over the years, the office workspace design has evolved from independent offices to cubicles and finally by work stations in what is commonly known as open plan office design where teams of people can work together. Besides size, the open plan office encourages transparency and makes everyone more accessible. Not surprisingly, the lack of “barriers” separating one employee from another also means that they can over hear each other’s conversations. Studies have shown that over 50% office workers are dissatisfied with the level of “speech privacy”. It is important to remember that a loss of privacy to one individual is a cause of distraction for another.
Acoustics & Productivity
We experience every space in five senses so it’s important that office design is not just for the eyes. Sound in a space affects us profoundly. It changes our heart rate, breathing, hormone secretion, brain waves, it affects our emotions and our cognition. Distraction due to speech is a frequently encountered problem in the open office but few people realize that there are effective solutions. What the open plan office is currently missing is an “Acoustics Design” i.e. consciously selecting the right materials and the right open plan layout keeping in mind, noise due to people or electrical and HVAC systems. Studies have shown that trying to perform knowledge-based tasks in a space in which other people’s conversations are clearly audible is difficult and productivity can be degraded by up to two thirds (65%) if the office sounds are not properly managed.
Right Acoustic Design:
An open plan office can be divided into 3 primary areas based on the type of activity taking place, i.e. open office, meeting rooms and cafeteria or break out areas. In the open plan office, the primary source of noise is human speech. Any good acoustic design looks at 3 basic principles,
You may choose from different types of false ceilings based on materials like:
Intelligent Layout – Design should separate noise producing areas from noise sensitive areas. A simple example is meeting rooms should not be located close to server rooms or cafeteria’s.