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Aug13
How Noise Pollution Affects Employee Well-being

How Noise Pollution Affects Employee Well-being

Posted In // Design Tips

Economic & wellness costs

The sound of a jackhammer. A barking dog. A car alarm going off. A baby crying. We are all familiar with the combination of natural and unnatural noises that can interrupt an otherwise calm moment. It may seem to be primarily a problem on busy streets, but analyses of typical classrooms and workplaces reveal that excess sound is threaded throughout our daily lives.

According to the World Health Organization, noise isn’t just annoying and disruptive. It’s a health issue. Noise pollution can result in elevated stress, sleep disorders, and high blood pressure. It can make us less productive and negatively impact the way we interact with others.

The WHO conducted an exhaustive study of noise pollution in Europe, revealing the devastating economic cost and health impact of sound in modern life. Amazingly, the researchers found that when you calculate the toll of noise pollution in medical expenses, diminished workplace concentration, and other negative effects, the total bill for Europe comes out to $30.8 billion annually.

“This same study also looked at the cost of noise pollution in terms of lost life expectancy,” wrote the WHO. “Shockingly, they determined that every 365 days, one million years are taken off European’s collective life expectancy — averaging to a day per person.”

Alarming volumes in various settings

In today’s world, noise pollution has become virtually unavoidable. According to Julian Treasure of the Sound Agency, types of environments where the level of sound has become deleterious include the office, classroom, and hospital:

1. The office – Ability to read or write in a business setting drops 66% when an employee overhears another conversation. (Note: This statistic suggests the need for any open office to include secluded areas for focused work.)

2. The classroom – The World Health Organization suggests that the ideal classroom has the ambient noise of a library: 35 dB. Unfortunately, research revealed that the typical German classroom averages 65 dB, loud enough to cause permanent damage to hearing. In terms of the effect on learning, “for a student sitting in the fourth row of a traditional classroom,” Treasure explains, “speech intelligibility is just 50 percent — meaning that they only hear half of what their teacher says.”

3. The hospital – Hospital wards are similar, with the WHO again recommending 35 dB. However, an American study found that hospitals average 95 dB, a disturbing figure when you consider that 85 dB is the level at which US law mandates protections and the CDC warns is the maximum for 8-hour exposure.

Interior design for sounder health

As you can see, the effects of noise pollution on our daily lives is far-reaching. An intelligent, research-driven approach to office design, limiting the flow of sound between various spaces, can help.

At Beaux Arts Group, we "understand" space; providing answers to complex workplace challenges such as ergonomics, technology, generational differences, and noise pollution. >>> How can we help you?