The Ministry of the Environment is preparing a new decree to improve the acoustics of office premises, thus improving work efficiency and productivity. The desire to improve acoustics in office premises is fine, but here at Workspace, we were wondering how the new decree will approach activity-based offices. The idea of activity-based offices is to offer a range of facilities with different sound environments so the user can choose the most suitable space for each task and requirement. Activity-based offices promote both interaction and concentration.
Professional acoustics design can significantly impact the reverberation time. This objective of the decree is achievable, and is also recommended for activity-based offices. A more complex issue is how to influence the speech transmission index. This requires robust measures, such as very tall screens for dividing space, as well as sound-masking systems. A binding decree would only produce one kind of working environment that just supports working alone, with no regard for the additional needs of working life. Tall screens also make a workplace generally less attractive.
It is impossible to state without reservation that increasing the efficiency of individual work will automatically lead to better efficiency and productivity. An organisation’s productivity and efficiency can also be improved by increasing cooperation, encounters and the distribution of information. This is particularly true in an increasingly complex world, where we are often unable to resolve problems on our own. The concept of an activity-based office was created to find a balance between cooperation and individual work. It is based on the idea that no one space can provide all the requirements of working.
However, the acoustic environment of an office is ultimately created by the people working there, and rules about office etiquette drawn up jointly will solve many problems regarding issues such as engaging in conversations face to face or on the phone. We would prefer a decree that provides no more than a recommendation that everyone should be offered the opportunity to work in complete quiet. There are many ways to achieve this and one of them is to set a low speech transmission index as a goal.