Office Background Noise Explained

Not sure how to reduce office background noise? Rexel’s Noise Reduction Guide answers 5 questions to help you on your journey towards a more productive work environment.

Grey floorstanding noise reduction panel

1. Which workplaces use noise reduction panels?

Noise reduction panels, also referred to as sound adsorption panels, are commonly used to combat the distraction and resulting lost productivity caused by the background noise generated by multiple workers in open planned offices.

Unwanted background noise can also be reduced in environments such as restaurants and schools by installing noise reduction panels.

If you look for them, you’ll find the panels deployed in many different noisy environments with abundant hard surfaces, such as walkways and corridors.

2. Why does office background noise distract?

Workplace environments are intrinsically linked to employee wellbeing and improving the working environment has never received as much attention as it does today. Employers understand the link between the ambient environment of the worker and their productivity.

Background or low-level noise is often cited as a cause of disruption and can be distracting for those seeking to concentrate.

Unwanted ambient noise can negatively impact employee health and wellbeing by increasing general stress levels and aggravating stress-related conditions such as headaches and high blood pressure. The effects worsen with prolonged exposure and can negatively impact higher brain function, impairing learning and memory, disrupting capacity to think clearly and retain information.

3. How is office background noise generated?

There are countless sources of noise in a working environment. Conversations, telephone calls, photocopiers, printers, keyboards, mobile phones, docking and undocking laptops, not to mention machinery in warehouses or production plants, all contribute. Even whispered chatter in school auditoriums or heavy footsteps in airport lounges have an impact.

Once a sound wave is generated, it travels until its energy dissipates. Hard surfaces such as uncarpeted floors, glass windows, conference and meeting tables, computer monitor screens and whiteboards allow more sound wave reverberation within the boundaries of the environment than softer materials that can absorb the sound energy.

4. Why is sound absorption effective in noisy offices?

Sound absorption materials are commonly used in construction for sound proofing and are effective alternatives to white noise strategies that attempt to mask distracting sound frequencies.

Our video shows just how effective noise reduction panels are at absorbing soundwaves.

Noise reduction panels employ the same noise absorption principles as permanent sound proofing boards but offer the flexibility of being mounted or positioned in areas where they will deliver most benefit. This makes them the best solution for noisy and loud offices as well as other spaces reducing background noise without incurring cost or workspace inflexibility presented by soundproofing is important.

Rexel ActiVita Noise Reduction Panels

Reverberation time in a typical office is about 2 seconds, that’s the time it takes for a noise to dissipate (or reduce). A reverberation time of 1 second is believed to be a comfortable level for the general office environment. Just 20% coverage of wall surface area in a room will reduce the reverberation time by anything from 0.5 seconds to slightly over 1 second (depending on how reflective the materials are within your office).

ActiVita Noise Reduction Panels reduce office background noise by 50%.

5. How many noise reduction panels do I need for my office?

Our noise reduction panel calculator will do the math for you.

Be bright about workplace light this summer

Rexel’s top workplace hacks for the sunny season

With summer in full swing and heat waves continuing to spread across the country, we see office workers desperate to get outside to get some well-deserved fresh air and sunshine.

Summer can bring a host of uncomfortable office conditions. So here are some tips to help keep you and your office colleagues comfortable this summer

Keep cool

If you are unable to offer air conditioning, employees can often become drowsy and unproductive when temperatures soar. The law does not state an ideal office temperature but the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers recommends the following temperatures for different working areas[1] :

  • Heavy work in factories: 13°C
  • Light work in factories: 16°C
  • Hospital wards and shops: 18°C
  • Offices and dining rooms: 20°C

Scientific studies confirm that indoor temperatures can significantly impact on productivity and the best performance ‘comfort zone’ lies between 22° C and 25° C[2].

A quick and cost effective way for employees to reduce temperatures in a workers personal space is a mini desk fan. Compact Rexel JOY desk fans provide a targeted cooling breeze and can be powered from PC USB ports to ensure they can be placed on the workers desk rather than where the next available plug socket happens to be.

Stay hydrated

It’s no surprise but drinking water will reduce body temperature and help workers to keep cool. Encourage workers to drink 2- 3 litres of water a day during the summer. Keep a bottle on your own desk to set the right example, and if you have a fridge, keep a few bottles stocked up so everyone has access to cool water. 

Shine the right light

It may surprise you to learn that daylight lamps are as popular in southern Europe where the sun shines as they are in colder, Northern European countries. That’s because employees who work in countries with more days of sunshine each year are more likely to ‘shut out the daylight’ to remain cool.

When it’s too hot to keep blinds open, relying on artificial light doesn’t need to mean your workforce needs to forego the benefits of natural daylight. Rexel’s ActiVita Daylight desk lamps use LEDs that mimic natural daylight, triggering benefits that will rejuvenate and energising workers.

Turn off electronics when not in use

Not only is it bad for the environment but it’s also going to add additional heat to the workplace from the start of the day. At the end of each day make sure you shut printers, scanners and computers down to give them a break from the heat too!

Dress smart

Being smart about what you wear in summer months will help you to combat climbing office heat too. If you are in a corporate office that requires suits, try and wear lighter, more breathable fabrics like cotton and linen. Lighter colours will also reflect light so white and light greys are good options to consider.

Incorporating some of these simple tips could well be what you need to improve productivity levels and of course, your wellbeing and comfort at work.

Innovative Daylight Lamps by Rexel ActiVita not only deliver the energy boosting benefits of daylight but also enable users to choose and work with the light they need depending on the task, without impacting co-workers. To find out more about the Rexel ActiVita desk lamps, please visit the Rexel website or follow Rexel on Twitter @rexeleurope.