Health and Wellness

The Effects of Office Noise

By Eric Harry

Depending on your occupation, your workplace may come with an unavoidable level of continuous noise, like lower-level hums from lights, ventilation noise, excessive chatter, office machines, and, possibly, more severe forms of noise like industrial machinery. This constant drone of noise can create adverse mental and physical health issues, but there are steps that you can take to reduce the negative impact the noise has.

Productivity and Health

Emotional irritation, stress, and mood swings are just some of the side effects of workplace noise. Studies have shown that chronic noise in the workplace can lead to and increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Chronic noise can also impact hearing and lead to symptoms of Tinnitus (or Ringing-in-the-Ears). The persistent noise overworks your senses which can increase stress, lead to sleep deprivation, and change our overall mood and emotional wellbeing.

The modern toward workspace that are increasingly officeless, cubicle-less, or open offices, has lead to growing concerns with noise distraction. A 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that workers lost as much as 86 minutes of productivity per day due to noise distractions. An open office can lead to a room that feels more like a cafeteria, filled with a booming noise-floor, and less like a place to work and concentrate. It's next to impossible to create one's own quiet space or isolation from the rest of the open office.

Solutions

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the effects of constant lower or higher workplace noise. Music is an effective stress buster. Calm Radio has plenty of calming music channels and white noise channels designed for your workday that let you listen to music online. Using noise cancellation headphones is an excellent way to block unwanted chronic noise while listening and enjoying music. There are many options on the market at reasonable costs. Try a comfortable pair that softly covers the ears.

Earplugs, however, are not highly recommended and are to be avoided (unless in extreme noise environments). They can compress earwax and irritate the ear canals. Earplugs can also lead to possible Tinnitus symptoms due to extreme lack of normal sound. Some noise is actually necessary for us throughout the day, but make sure that it is pleasant, varied, used in moderation, and not too loud.

For those unable to use headphones in their office setting, another effective trick is to keep a white noise device around you, like a fan. It seems counter-intuitive, but adding more sound to an environment can actually make it seem quieter. Research suggests that noise itself isn’t distracting, but unwanted speech noise is. By adding a continuous, low-level ambient sound to an environment (such as white noise, which sounds similar to the sound of airflow) you enable sound masking, which can help make conversations intended for other listeners unintelligible, and therefore much easier to ignore.

If solutions like headphones or fans are impractical, you can try one of Calm Radio's free relaxing music, nature or environmental sound channels like white noise. Calm Radio has many free white noise channels or paid subscription options to choose from that you can play at low level from your computer or calm radio app. Regardless of the type of chronic noise you are experiencing at work, it is important that you use one (or a few) of these suggestions to compact the negative impacts on your health.

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