Why acoustics are important
A quiet environment is a core human need. Nevertheless, we are usually exposed to background noise from morning to night – from the ringing of the alarm clock to the conversational hum in modern open-plan offices. In the workplace, the quality of room acoustics is cited as one of the most important factors for one's well-being. Studies have shown that the acoustics of a room impact both productivity and the general quality of togetherness and one's health. XAL's goal is to craft spaces where people feel relaxed, safe, and productive. To this end, we have developed a product portfolio in which lighting and room acoustics interact harmoniously. Acoustic lighting creates optimal lighting conditions and a balanced acoustic environment that enhances concentration, promotes social interaction, and creates an all-round sense of well-being.
Noise makes you ill
Our body releases stress hormones that make us ill over time.
Noise is a stress factor. This is evolutionary, as acoustic (warning) signals trigger fight or flight reactions. Due to the increased release of the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, the heart rate and blood pressure rise, which narrows the focus and provides the muscles with sufficient oxygen. The body compensates for this loss of energy by producing more cortisol, which increases blood fat and blood sugar levels. It is precisely these bodily processes that serve us in the short term but make us sick in the long term. Unfortunately, the origin of the noise is irrelevant. Even if loud noises rarely mean danger to life today, the body still reacts in the same way. By making a significant contribution to reducing physical stress symptoms, quiet, balanced room acoustics have a positive long-term effect on health.
Noise is distracting
Even a whisper can interrupt concentration.
A whisper is only 30 dB, yet it affects both our mental state and our cognitive performance. Even after a minimal distraction at work, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back to our original task and another eight minutes to return to our original concentration level.1) Researchers have found a term for this severe collapse and laborious recovery of performance level: the sawtooth effect. Good room acoustics increase concentration by minimising distracting noise.
Noise is isolating
The louder the environment, the more it impedes personal communication.
To satisfy one's need for privacy in large, open offices, the only option is often to withdraw and isolate oneself, for instance, by wearing headphones. In addition, personal contacts in open spaces are often reduced, as confidential one-on-one conversations are difficult. Compared to small offices, face-to-face communication in open-plan offices is reduced by approx. 70 % 2) and employees switch to email and instant messaging. Balanced room acoustics limit sound propagation, thereby creating enough intimacy to hold face-to-face conversations even in multi-person offices. Thus, acoustic design is essential for a productive and social work environment where people feel connected and can interact.
Noise costs money
We should not accept performance losses due to poor room acoustics.
In our knowledge economy, personnel costs have become the largest expense. Employees create added value through focused work and their cognitive performance. Good room acoustics improve the ability to concentrate; distractions and stress are reduced. Performance, measured by error rate and short-term memory, increases by up to 10 %.3) In this example calculation of an open-space office with 32 employees, we conservatively calculate only a 5 % increase in performance with optimised room acoustics. What is nevertheless evident is that the cost savings achieved by optimising acoustics are worthwhile.
|Monthly value added per staff member (SM)4)||8.300 €|
|Additional monthly value added per SM with optimised acoustics (5 %)||415 €|
|Additional monthly value added per SM with optimised acoustics||13.280 €|
|Annual profit with optimised acoustics||159.360 €|
|Optimally equipped office using XAL MUSE (acoustics and light)||from 63.520 €|
1) Gonzalez, Victor M.: “No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work”, 2005
2) Bernstein, Ethan S. & Turban, Stephen: “The Impact of the ‘Open’ Workspace on Human Collaboration”, 2018
3) Sykes, David M.: “Productivity: How Acoustics Affect Workers’ Performance In Offices & Open Areas”, 2004
4) According to the Austrian Chamber of Labour's balance sheet database, approx. €100,000 value added per employee in 2019. AK-Wien, AK OÖ: Diagram "AK Wertschöpfungsbarometer, Überschuss Pro-Kopf-Wertschöpfung über Pro-Kopf-Personalaufwand in Euro", 2020