10 solutions for designing for quiet in the workplace
“The most important thing to remember about sound is that it is relative,” says Robert Benson in a new FastCo Design article that highlights “10 Design Ideas for the Perk Workers Actually Want: Quiet.” The story responds to a recently released survey from Oxford Economics revealing that workers value peace, quiet and uninterrupted work time more than any other “perk” in the workplace. The survey included responses from more than 1,200 executives and non-senior employees across myriad industries and 74% of the respondents worked in open offices. Across the board, uninterrupted work time topped employees’ wish lists.
Recognizing there are numerous ways companies can help employees find quiet time at work, FastCo’s new piece highlights design strategies that can mitigate noise and distractions to help people concentrate and get work done. Below are some of the key excerpts from Robert’s contribution.
On the importance of adjacencies
“The most important thing to remember about sound is that it is relative,” said Benson. “Reducing sound may actually make the ‘noise’ worse. Imaging sitting in a charming cafe. Twenty people chatting about their day and you are able to read a book because the sound is event. There is a nice dine that becomes background allowing you to focus. Now imaging that there is only one other table occupied in the cafe. The conversation at the table is really the only sound being made in the space. You hear every word and it is as if they are chatting inside your head. The go-to strategy is to match the energy in the workspace. Open meeting areas should be adjacent to circulation or other sound-producing areas. Gather quieter spaces near each other.”
On designing spaces for collaboration
“Designing spaces for concentration is easy – just don’t expected a workstation to do it,” Benson says. “The challenge now and tomorrow is maintaining the right level of energy. Walking into a deadly quiet workspace is not inspiring. More and more people want to be part of a team that is collaboration. They want to see activity. They want to see the mission of the organization happen.”
On creating opportunities for choice
“Allowing users in a workspace to relocate – or flow – to spaces that suite their needs, at that moment, increases productivity and satisfaction in the workplace. Secondly, understanding the type of work happening throughout the workforce is critical. Quiet zones, similar to that deployed on commuter rails, are becoming more and more popular.”