Acoustics and Productivity in Offices

In relation with all other environmental factors the effect of unwanted sound or noise is an important and popular topic for research worldwide. Noise seems to cause decentralization, frustration and decrease of performance in employees.

During the last decades, there has been a change in the architecture layout of office buildings. From the traditional layout of the closed cell offices in what we call today Open plan Office.

In open office spaces there are no obstacles to ‘shade’ Noise source from receiver. Open plan office increase collaboration among employees thus creating an atmosphere that encourages interaction, discussion and creativity. Currently (2017) estimated that 80% of office spaces are open plan office.

Office acoustics2

For some businesses, this type of arrangement offers exactly what we expected: an open, collaborative and interactive atmosphere based on the immediacy of communication. For others, the open-type offices have created a less productive, invasive and noisy area.

Therefore, open-space office for some are operating normally but for others not. This also depends on what type of work is performed, for example for a print design company to have open plan offices it’s constructive as it allows designers to freely ask questions and discuss about their designs.

We need to take into consideration that in an office space there is communication via phone, an open office space makes this difficult and makes it necessary for the creation of other rooms (meeting rooms, tele-conference rooms etc) but also the need for further  noise protection measures to be carried out.

Acoustics & Sound Environment

The average noise level in a noisy office can be about 75-80 dB (A), which as shown in the diagram below is sufficiently higher than the average noise level in the conventional closed offices.

Office acoustic productivityAs shown in the diagram below (Veitch et al., 2002), the noise is almost 75 % of detachments observed in an open-plan office. The air quality and lighting were far less of an aggravating factor in the concentration of office staff.

acoustic comfort



Taking into consideration satisfaction rates resulting from the investigation (Anderson, 2008) (privacy of the general noise levels) acoustics collected the lowest score. Combining the two charts we realize that the most aggravating factor for the concentration of employees is the one with the lowest satisfaction rating.




Another research (Bluyssen et al., 2011) comes to prove that poor acoustics is by far the most critical in the rate of non-satisfaction of office staff especially for open-plan offices.

The same survey shows that 93% of office staff in open space offices is affected in a negative manner by poor acoustics in their working environment.

An equivalent research of Sydney University, Australia confirms that the lack of acoustic privacy, combined with high sound levels are the primary reasons behind staff dissatisfaction. .

Experiments: Acoustics & Productivity

The fact that noise is a common reason for employee dissatisfaction and the main cause of “complaints” can be easily explained as it may also lead to many health risks. This concerns the intensity frequency and duration of the sound waves. Additionally sounds that are stable in intensity and frequency may cause less disturbance of a constantly changing sound.

The main impacts of noise at work are:

– Attention loss

– Difficulty in concentration / memorizing

– Communication difficulty

– Derating

– Increased probability of errors

Gary Evans together with a group of environmental psychologists found that low intensity noise, caused increased stress to employees and reduced the appetite for work. Interesting enough workers did not report themselves disturbed by the noise, since it was not particularly noticeable.

A group of 40 women, 37 years, worked for three hours in a quiet office, unlike equal groups who worked in the office with a lot of noise. The second group had elevated levels of stress, by 40 % (increased adrenaline secretion) less to solve a problem (which was not meant to be solved) and made 50 % fewer ergonomic applications in their workplace, compared with the first team, who worked in quieter offices. It should be mentioned that men, according to Professor Taylor surveys, are more prone to stress. A psychological balance and emotions, from Intrinsic factors, such as high levels of noise or temperature, poor ventilation and poor conditions in general, etc have been noticed to be caused by a noise office/ workspace.

In particular, external environmental factors can block individual skills of emotional intelligence, taking over the emotional control of a person so to lead to conflict with themselves or those around him/her. This entails physical and psychological symptoms, which in combination, may lead to unpleasant situations.

Thus summarizing the above, it is clear that the effect of noise in the workplace includes reduction in employee performance, more, working hours, overtime, delay in the production process, increased production cost.


The purpose of this report is to present some scientific findings in order to present a problem faced in modern workplaces and at the same time offer solutions. Our goal is to try to inform our clients about the importance of proper acoustics in an office environment and to highlight the fact that good acoustics is not a luxury, but a strategic business decision for improved employee productivity.

The specific report is based on studies and data available on internet.

Sound Transmission

Noise transmission for open plan office spaces is divided mainly into the following four categories. This report will mainly emphasize with the direct and reflected transmitted noise which is the main problem in offices.

For noise transmission through structural or mechanical crossings (number 4) is not the subject of this report.

  • Direct
  • Reflected
  • Diffracted
  • Transmitted

To solve Noise transmission for the above described ways, the following procedures are followed:


Install self-standing or desk partitions such as type ALPHAcoustic-AM.Desk in order, to offer shadowing between noise source and receiver.

It should be highlighted that ALPHAcoustic-AM.Desk offer both sound-absorption on both sides of the panel and have an internal sound insulating core.

Considering the average height of an adult, the net height of the frame is proposed to be no less than 50 cm above the desk level.

Below you can find corresponding application photos for the proposed products.





To reduce reflected noise it is proposed to place sound-absorbent products such as ALPHAcoustic-AP.C or ALPHAcoustic-WP that when sound waves will meet they will be absorbed and not reflected back to the room.

The main challenge here is architectural and ergonomic alignment of sound-absorbent products shape, color and position. Usually in practice available surfaces can be found on ceilings and parts of the walls.

Below are application photos in offices where absorptive means are used to control sound.

Εφαρμογές Ηχομόνωσης σε γραφείο

Therefore for optimum Noise control in open plan offices and increase productivity, it is proposed to use a combination of products both for direct and reflected sound.

The chart below is an indication of the reverberation time without acoustic improvement measures. The first step is to reduce the direct sound transmission with the aid of ALPHAcoustic-AM.Desk sound partitions. This intervention will significantly improve the direct noise transmission, but the reverberation time will not be reduced to desired levels.

Furthermore it is proposed to place sound absorption panels ALPHAcoustic AP walls and/or ALPHAcoustic AP-Cloud which offer absorption coefficient in an increased sound spectrum.

The following graphs show measured Reverberation time Before and After Acoustic interventions in an open space office.


Position 1. Reverberation time Before and after the installation of ALPHAcoustic-AP.C & ALPHAcoustic-AM.Desk products.


Position 2. Reverberation time Before and after the acoustic intervention.


Position 3. Reverberation time Before and after the acoustic intervention.

 RT4The cost of Bad Acoustics In open space offices

According to techno-economic study (Schiavon and Altomonte, 2014) the vast majority of directors are not interested in the improvement of office acoustics. Whilst 70% of employees feel that their productivity is reduced because of poor architectural acoustics in office spaces.


The forecast results for saving money in cases of acoustic treatment in offices is impressive. The provision refers to greater profits from to a radical change on improved acoustics office layout.

ACOUSTICS IN offices and productivity










For additional information and guidance on how to improve the acoustic environment in your application do not hesitate to contact us via e-mail

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