Keep it down in the office

Keep it down in the office

Keep it down in the office

November 24 2015

An article by Verity Edward, The Australian, July 17, 2015

One of my pet hates is people chomping on crunchy apples. In the era of the open-plan office, and people being too busy to eat in a communal kitchen, there are more noisy eaters irritating co-workers, like me, than ever before.

Noisy food might be one bugbear, but with open-plan offices here to stay there are more and more noise issues to deal with, providing distractions and making tasks difficult to complete. A business strategist I know has a colleague who constantly plays loud music on his computer, even when calls come through.

In some open-plan spaces chatter can be a massive distraction, loud talkers on the phone can be annoying, and personal calls can tell you more about a person than you need to know.

Yet we are constantly told open-plan offices lead to greater collaboration, more brainstorming, better relationships in the workplace and increased productivity. And they are cheaper to run.

A US-based company that advises on business noise, The Sound Agency, begs to differ. It has found people are 66 per cent less effective in an open-plan office than working alone.

The Centre on the Built Environment at the University of Sydney has found almost 50 per cent of employees in open-plans and almost 60 per cent of employees at partitioned workstations say the lack of sound privacy is the most frustrating aspect at work.

Cutting noise can be difficult, but employers can easily install partitions and provide break-out spaces for discussions, personal phone calls and meetings. No-one wants to hear an argument either, when in the past they would have been behind closed office doors.

Most people resort in frustration to sending emails, killing the art of conversation and negating the open-plan positives.

Noisy eating can be knocked on the head if people take their food to a kitchen space, or take time for some sunshine outside to eat lunch and walk around the block. Fresh air and sunlight do wonders for mental and physical health.

Let people know when you are about to hold an important business conversation on the phone. They may turn down their own volume without taking offence. And if you are a loud talker like me, a gentle reminder every now and then can help.

Verity Edwards is editor of The Weekend Australian’s Weekend Professional. This article by Verity Edwards was on The Australian July 17, 2015.

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