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‘Good acoustic privacy, a growing priority in workspace design and employee comfort’, reveals Saint-Gobain Gyproc’s study on “Workspace Comfort for Office Occupants”  

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Study reveals that noise-related complaints haunt employers the most post-occupancy and good acoustics contribute to higher productivity in employees

 

India, 29th June 2022 – Strengthening its pledge towards building comfortable, sustainable, and well-planned workspaces across the country, Saint-Gobain Gyproc India, a pioneer in the area of lightweight and sustainable construction materials, released a research study titled “It’s all about sound”. The study aims to understand the impact of comfort parameters such as acoustics on occupant wellbeing and productivity at work. It revealed that good acoustics that help in noise control and management within office spaces remain a neglected priority in current workspace designs, despite noise-related complaints being a top issue cited to employers’ post-occupancy.

The study involved the evaluation of responses from 285 participants, (office occupants, senior management, architects, HR/Admins, and interior designers) working across Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore. The responses of these participants were collected and analyzed to understand the reasons for distractions in the workplace and how office spaces can be revamped to enhance productivity.

The study was undertaken with a 4-step approach:

  1. Perception about comfort– Which parameters play a lead role in defining a comfortable workplace? What relation does it have with mental health?
  2. Current experience– What do employees encounter currently? What are the challenges faced by employees in meeting rooms and cafeterias?
  3. Their Preference– What do employees do when they face this? Where would they want to operate from and why? Reason for preference.
  4. Stakeholders and complaints– What do employees expect from their employer? Typical complaints managers receive regarding workplace comfort
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The findings of the study revealed that:

Further, for both cabin and open space occupiers, background noise is the 5th significant attribute impacting psychological behavior. Moreover, out of the top 7 parameters (Indoor lighting, Chairs and tables, flexibility in working options, Personalization of desk space, Noise, Air Quality, Temperature, and other amenities), noise and air quality need to be taken care of during the design stage itself. This is quite interesting to note since the other 4 factors in the list can always be changed or corrected later on post-occupancy.  This is in case that the factors are found to be not appropriate but surrounding noise as a factor is such that needs to be taken care of well at the design stage because noise control is more about the choice of ceilings and partition walls. To confirm if noise is one of the top recall factors of a comfortable office, it was also observed that less disturbance or distraction is the most important factor by which people perceive or measure comfort in offices.

Irrespective of the size of an organization, distraction due to loud discussions emerged as the top factor affecting productivity at work. 74% of occupants are disturbed due to phone calls by team members. It is also seen that among all concerns in the cafeteria, noise-related concerns are at the top 3; overall, 1 out of 3 employees don’t find the acoustic quality at work acceptable. While disturbance from adjacent rooms is the top concern faced in closed spaces, open office occupants visit closed spaces or resort to using headphones to deal with distractions and have privacy.

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Closed spaces occupants desire to have an upgraded partition wall that enables better sound insulation between adjacent rooms and open space occupants look for more privacy. In addition to private cabins and conference rooms, it is required to have a few more closed areas where employees can visit occasionally for attending phone calls, attend sensitive tasks, and small group meetings. Partition walls separating cabins and conference rooms are expected to have superior sound insulation to avoid disturbance.

Noise-related design elements have become of increasing relevance and consideration in the process of office design and the well-being of employees. Currently, most of the attention is given to limiting factors, however, a good acoustic design incorporates all factors such as walls, ceilings and wall panels or room acoustic design which missed opportunity for most stakeholders involved in interior space design.

 

Commenting on the study findings, Sudeep Kolte, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Saint-Gobain India Pvt. Ltd. – Gyproc Business, said, “Building acoustics design is achieved by following an “intelligent layout” where noise-producing areas are separated from noise-sensitive areas. Acoustics design should also ensure sound insulation between rooms and sound absorption of excess sound to improve communication and reduce noise-related distractions. This will in turn help in boosting productivity across employees in the organization and help address a major concern for most employees. Additionally, while we move forward with a hybrid working model it is important to evaluate our office spaces for the best possible benefit for the organization.”

 

Adding further he mentioned, “Of all the attention given towards acoustics in the design stage, only 13% focus on the acoustic performance of walls, the rest is more towards the absorption of noise through ceiling, flooring, and wall paneling treatment. Given the various sources for noise to seep in, it is observed that little to no attention is given to these factors. Hence it can be seen that the requirement of good acoustics is not among the top 5 priorities during design however acoustic-related issues are the topmost complaint factors post-handover. Thus, the study undertaken can help us better understand the need and relevance of good acoustics in a working space.”

Findings from the study reveal if acoustics design is considered wisely in the planning stage itself can boost productivity and make office spaces more comfortable and collaborative for their employees.

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Closing note:

As we return to our office spaces, it is now relevant to evaluate the layout of our offices for the employees in the new normal. Staying in the comfort of our homes has at times also helped in better productivity and this needs to be replicated in office spaces to not let the ball drop. In such a situation, quick and easy-to-install options like drywalls are the ultimate solution to meet the stringent timelines and also ensure that acoustic needs are met in a given space. Hence, as we gradually move back to the old working culture, acoustics will now play a more prominent role than ever before.

 

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