Fact Sheet: Noise in Open Workplaces
What do our members say about noise in open workplaces?
- In the September 2018 PIPSC Survey on Open Workspaces, PIPSC members identified a number of needs to address noise including:
- more quiet areas to do focused work (26%);
- more privacy (24%);
- effective Noise Cancelling Technology (22%).
What does the research say about noise in open workplaces?
- Distracting noise has a detrimental effect on complex task performance.
- Memory and problem solving decline with “realistic” office noises.
- “Broken concentration reduces people’s ability to make the creative leaps that distinguish merely acceptable solutions from the truly innovative.”
- Even at low levels, noise is an occupational hazard and it increases stress levels.[i] A 2004 study indicated that as noise levels increased fewer postural adjustments were made, physiological stress indicators increased, and tolerance of frustration decreased.[ii]
What does your employer say about noise?
- The GC Workplace Fit Up Standard has a number of references to noise abatement, noise room rating, and noise transfer. However, rarely is specific direction given to what the technologies, ratings or abatement measures should be.
- The GC Workplace Design Guide refers to grouping work zones or activity areas by noise and activity level, but does not discuss measures or indicators.
- Design Specifications
- Partitions between workspaces should be 1.7 m to block noise.
- Sight lines should be blocked between occupants at their most common task locations.
- Larger Workstations should be at least 6.3 m2 to diminish sound reaching adjacent workers.
- Ensure ambient sound introduced to minimize distractions and noise does not exceed 45 – 48 dBa. Perform periodic testing.
Sample Questions for Consultation Teams and Stewards:
- How have you grouped and measured different types of activity that will be performed within the workspace? This will determine how space is organized and possibly allocated.
- What specific noise mitigation measures are you putting in place?
[i] Canada Safety Council, “Office Noise and Accoustics: Workplace Safety” online: Canada Safety Council <https://canadasafetycouncil.org/office-noise-and-acoustics/>.
[ii] Charles, K. E.; Danforth, A.; Veitch, J. A.; Zwierzchowski, C.; Johnson, B.; Pero, K., “Workstation design for organizational productivity: practical advice based on scientific research findings for the design and management of open-plan offices” p. 17, online: (2004) online: National Research Council <https://nrc-publications.canada.ca/eng/view/fulltext/?id=b0db4c34-bcfc-493b-aed7-ee06bdd9f336>