Open plan office spaces are becoming the rule rather than the exception in contemporary corporate buildings. This airy, inclusive design system has a wide range of perks including offering greater sharing of information, easier communication and teamwork for business purposes, but also aesthetic benefits such as more natural light and unobstructed views outside.
Human Spaces, an international research firm, found that people working in offices with access to more natural light had 6 per cent higher productivity and 15 per cent greater creativity output – and yet, nearly half (47 per cent) of offices they surveyed across 16 countries were designed with zero natural light. Needless to say, open plan offices can provide businesses a myriad of benefits for company culture, employee engagement and productivity.
However, despite the avid enthusiasm with which they are being adopted, they also pose a range of acoustic obstacles.
"The base noise level in open plan offices tends to be higher, while numerous studies have proven that quieter environments enable people to work better," explains Jonathan Mountfort from Autex, a New Zealand company specialising in acoustic products for commercial applications.
Indeed, Jonathan cited a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work Environmental Health which found that workers in open plan offices had 62 per cent more sickness days, in part due to the stress of constant base noise levels. Another study Jonathan mentioned was by GSA Public Buildings Service, entitled 'Sound Matters'. This research identified that it takes around 15 minutes to get back on track after a distraction in the workplace, as is common in the vibrant, bustling atmosphere of an open plan design.