Sound matters at work - Ecophon’s acoustics podcast

Good acoustics matters at work. A good acoustic environment helps us concentrate, reduces stress and improves wellbeing, which in turn has a positive impact on the bottom line.

In this episode of A Sound Effect on People, presenter Salma Cranefield is joined by Ecophon concept developer Paige Hodsman (@paigehodsman) and by psychologist Dr Nigel Oseland (@oseland) from Workplace Unlimited to explore how sound and noise affect us, both psychologically and physiologically, and how the impact varies depending on our individual personalities.

The episode starts with the evolution of the modern office, from Taylorism to modern flexible spaces with a focus on open plan. These larger open plan spaces, with different tasks and people can create acoustic challenges, which need to be taken into account when offices are designed. The influence of technology and increased autonomy that is offered by the change in IT makes this an exciting time in office design. Especially when combined with the change from “a job for life” philosophy towards one where the office is a meeting space, where we come together to discuss and debate, rather than a place needed to do our jobs.

To some people using the office is a choice, but not everyone. When designing an office space the personality types of the people who will be working there must be considered, as well as the types of jobs they will do there. Acoustic etiquette and behaviour is just as important as the physical space.

In the second part of the podcast, Selma and Paige are joined by environmental psychologist and workplace consultant Dr Nigel Oseland from Workplace Unlimited. Nigel’s research has shown how the nature of work is changing, and that acoustics plays an important part in the success of the office. He believes that to ignore acoustics is irresponsible, due to the effect of poor acoustics on productivity and absenteeism.

The episode then delves into the psychoacoustics approach to office design. This approach seeks to understand the way that personality type, psychology and experience affect our cognitive response to sound, meaning that one workplace does not fit all. When sounds become unwanted noise, then it is likely to have a detrimental effect on performance. The difference responses to this noise of introverts and extroverts can introduce complexity to the effective design of the room. The difficulty for a business can be financially measuring the impact of improvements in office design on the productivity of the people who work there. But it cannot be ignored.

The final part of the podcast, the guests look at how the acoustic environment indoors can be made to mimic the natural environment of the outside world, creating a sense of calm and comfort to those working there.

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