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Workplace Noise: Impact on Personal Health & Productivity

Noise in the workplace can impact your personal health and productivity. It affects you in a number of ways, even when you don't realize it. The stress doesn't end with work but comes home with you to influence your sleep, heart, hearing, and other aspects of your life and well-being. 

Noise is especially distracting when it occurs in an open office environment. Here is how workplace noise negatively affects how well you work and feel, and what you can do to end the cycle.

Signs of Too Much Noise

You might well be wondering: How much noise is too much? Is there some common, tangible way of gauging when it's too loud unless you really start consciously feeling frustrated by it?

Those are excellent questions. You can look to the OSHA standards for some common examples of what constitutes excessive noise levels: Whereas classroom chatter is 70 decibels, a freight train is at 80 and a boiler room at 90 decibels. 

Imagine a construction site at 100 decibels and how these workers have to wear earplugs. You might be aware of how hard it can be to hear other people talking at night clubs or concerts, which are in the ballpark of 110 decibels. It gets painful at 140. 

Of course, nobody is going to leave an office environment with ringing or humming in their ears or experience temporary hearing loss, the classic tell-tale signs of being in too noisy an environment. 

The effects from excessive workplace noise are far more subtle: being able to hear the noises your co-workers are making and parts of conversations, for example, are frequently distracting. A large open office has a noise level of about 50 decibels. 

It doesn't sound like much, but there is a trade-off that occurs with the transition from cubicles to open office spaces: you sacrifice privacy and a lower noise level for more personal approachability, natural light, and modern design. 

Impacts on Health (& What You Can Do About Them)

The U.S. Department of Labor on March 26, 2018, stated that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work. The noise is not only a risk to their hearing, but it is also associated with high blood pressure and cholesterol, the biggest risk factors for heart disease. A constant 50 decibels at work has an cumulative effect

Find peace

People with high blood pressure are more irritable. Anger elevates stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, and they take at least a few hours to fully clear from your body. You need a workplace that has some agreed-upon level of acceptable noise and noise monitoring according to the OSHA.

Listen closely

Besides the sound level, another aspect of too much noise is that it occurs often. High blood pressure makes it so that you have difficulty reading emotional cues. 

While many doctors advise making dietary changes to reduce high blood pressure, any noisy environment you're in for an extended period, even a low-level one, may be a factor in its elevation. And while some employees resort to listening to music to block out distracting noises, earbuds come with their own risks. 

Sleep well

When you come back from work stressed out and can't relax enough, you'll have sleep problems from raised blood pressure and cortisol, probably resulting in less deep sleep and shorter sleep time. That will cause you to be sleep-deprived, which brings down your performance.

Impacts on productivity

Since sleep problems will naturally cause you to be tired, your body will be calling it quits before the workday has ended. You may get sick more often, and being sick also brings down your productivity -- that is if you're not already missing work to rest.

Stress

There are two important hormones in the body which affect you in profound ways: Cortisol is a stress hormone as well as a steroid which reduces inflammation, hence why it's used in injections for joint and nerve issues. 

It also regulates blood sugar, metabolism, and even memory formation. The belief that it makes one gain weight actually comes from the fact that it causes people to crave sweet, high-fat and salty foods, increases glucose in the bloodstream and reduces testosterone, the hormone that creates and maintains muscle.

Adrenaline is the "fight or flight" hormone that makes you hypervigilant and ready for action at a moment's notice. It gives you a temporary burst of energy and then you "crash," whereas cortisol makes you feel anxious and irritable. 

Efficiency

You may feel that the quality of your work and the time you used to do it suffered due to the unnecessary noise, and you'd be right. Office work in particular demands a certain level of quiet for concentration and multitasking.

How to reduce workplace noise

Many people don't understand how important it is to ensure they have a quiet work environment. It is easy to become so used to noise with a busy schedule that you don't realize you can reduce it. The time you get for work then becomes a struggle as you try to collect your thoughts and finish work, while not feeling as accomplished as you could have otherwise. 

A white noise machine at a low volume provides smooth sounds of an electric fan and nature, such as rainfall, a river flowing, and wind. It sounds counter-intuitive but it works because it softens other noises and the sounds themselves are relaxing, helping you to focus on work, sleep, or anything else you need to do. 

Noise-canceling headsets are popular for telephone agents, and soundproof earplugs also work great.

Location

Not many people have the option of moving to another workspace without changing their job if it gets too noisy. That's why the initial location is so essential for your business, both in terms of starting the company and keeping it productive. 

Imagine if you were able to do your work as quickly, efficiently and focused as possible. Zenbooth office booths give you the distraction-free space you need to concentrate and get work done anywhere. 

They feature closed booths with soundproof walls for both peace and privacy, with a denim and cotton insulation of 3.5 inches. They also give you and your fellow workers the freedom to move them anywhere sine they're lightweight and portable.

Noise doesn't have to be painful to be distracting or affect your health. Even low-level noise reduces your energy, stress tolerance, and efficiency and makes it difficult for you to focus and multitask without interruption. 

Fortunately, there are aids you can use to reduce noise levels in the workplace. Zenbooths are an all-in-one solution big enough for 1-6 people at a time. We've already helped some of the biggest brands in the country like Lyft, Samsung and Virgin make their office a quieter, happier place. 

To learn more about how Zenbooth can make your workplace more productive, contact us here. 

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