How sound affects productivity

At Spaces, sound is taken seriously – whether you’re looking for ambient noise or total silence

We all know what it’s like. Sometimes you need the background chatter of a coffee shop to find that sweet spot for working well. And at other times, only the silence of a monastery where everyone has taken a vow of silence will do. But relying on public spaces to fulfil our precise aural needs can be a dangerous affair: pity the poor soul who finds themselves at the mercy of a toddlers’ group, surrounded by incessant shouting (and that’s just the parents). Equally, the internet connectivity that’s done so much to improve our lives – and that’s becoming ever more widespread – also has its drawbacks: high-volume drill music blasting from a tinny phone-speaker isn’t known as a classic concentration aid. It’s safe to say that, in today’s world, the prospects for finding your noise nirvana are becoming slimmer than ever, and it turns out that sound affects productivity.

Humans have been hyper-aware of the effects noise can have on us ever since our survival depended on it as hunter-gatherers. One false move (or snapped twig underfoot) and our dinner escapes to live another day – or worse, we become dinner ourselves for something bigger and nastier. But these instincts are hardwired, and studies have shown that noise exposure still has a direct effect on the nervous system in the form of rising blood pressure and stress hormones. This places a strain on the cardiovascular system, which over time can end up causing anger and exhaustion.

Not all noise is bad, however, and ambient – or white – noise can be thought of almost as a “noise effect” that both reassures and aids concentration. In fact, total silence can have an adverse effect on humans. The Anechoic Chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minneapolis combines fibreglass, acoustic wedges, insulated steel and a foot of concrete to block 99% of all noise – but here’s the kicker: “No one has been able to stay in the room for more than 45 minutes, citing hallucinations from the quiet”, according to an article in The Week. Another article, in Nautilus, reports on a study by the University of British Columbia, which found that 70 decibels is the optimum level for “creative thinking”. So perhaps it’s no wonder that white-noise machines are widely available on Amazon, and that tech companies like Apple and Bose incorporate white noise-producing elements into their products. The makers of electric vehicles (EVs) are having to give white noise some serious thought too, since road roar is especially acute when your car doesn’t make enough sound to mask it like a conventional engine would.

At Spaces, the effects of sound pollution are taken seriously. We’d be the first to agree that it’s important to kick back at the end of a long day at work, relaxing to our favourite tunes and a glass of something grape-based. But there’s a time (and a Spaces) for everything – and that’s why each of our locations is designed to take you through every stage of the working day, from a hidden nook in the morning to a networking event in the evening. You can expect cosy corners containing private offices and breakout areas featuring curated background music – essentially, it’s all about creating the right atmosphere, in the right environment, at the right time.

Individual properties offer individual solutions: at Spaces Andreas Quartier in Düsseldorf, members who wish to shut themselves off entirely can borrow noise-cancelling headphones. And at Spaces Platinium in Warsaw’s Mokotów Business District, sound-masking solutions are taken to a whole new level with the installation of a noise-dampening ceiling. “Research shows that adequate acoustic conditions prevent chronic stress, irritability and a decrease in productivity,” says Rafał Gabteni, Spaces Sales Director for Poland. Comprised of high-performing stone-wool panels, the ceiling both absorbs sound and acts as a fire retardant, since the material is non-combustible by nature. “We used the Rockfon Mono Acoustic ceiling recommended by architects,” adds Gabteni, “which eliminates reverberation on open surfaces.” It’s an ingenious solution that not only has practical benefits but also looks good too. “As it turned out, this solution works perfectly, especially on such large areas as ours,” he says. And if that’s not enough, the 2,790sq m property is surrounded by parkland complete with wooden terraces and a pond – perfect for a moment of quiet contemplation in a busy day.

What it all comes down to is the right to choose, and finding the right environment to suit the flexible lifestyles we all increasingly lead. And that flexibility is what Spaces is all about. Whichever property you find yourself at around the world, there are choices for every occasion: as well as private offices, other noise solutions include quiet areas, secluded phone booths and speaker-free zones – plus meeting rooms, should you really need to knuckle down to some deep work (whether it’s for a confidential brainstorming session or an intense period of solitary problem-solving is up to you). So the next time you’re looking for a little peace and quiet, look for Spaces.

If you’re someone who’s looking for more peace and quiet, then our private offices could be just what you’re after. Check them out right here.

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