Sunday, October 26, 2008

Noises off

Noise in the workplace ...

"Try this experiment: stop what you're doing and listen to the sounds around you. If you work in an average office you'll be greeted by the muted cacophony of printers, computers, conversations, road noise and even music. And now you've noticed you won't be able to ignore it. Sorry about that.

The world is a noisy place full of noisy things that impinge on our concentration. An Austrian study a few years ago found that excess ambient noise was a major factor in stopping children learning. And if it's hard to grasp long division while the school caretaker mows a lawn, it must be as hard to pay attention during a meeting while a pneumatic drill hammers away outside.

As I write this, for example, someone is playing what sound like Central American ballads extraordinarily loudly through an open window. Others are having a shouting match on the street, a truck is reversing, someone is collecting recycling, which involves glass being dropped into a container, inevitably smashing, and some kids are making laughing/chasing noises. Were I dictator of the world I would ban motorbikes without adequate silencers. We know you invested in a Harley Davidson or similar ludicrously overpowered bike; we can see it. But we don't need to hear it for a mile in either direction, you be-leathered chump.

The environment in which you work goes beyond how you have adjusted your chair and the height of your desk. Ergonomics is doubtless essential, but what about noise, lighting, temperature and air quality? If there is a hell it is lit with flickering fluorescent tubes, has windows that won't open and is three degrees beyond the edge of comfortable in either direction.

We make sure our goldfish don't have a stressful environment (or at least try to - I've accidentally sent a few to sleep with the fishes), so why not extend the same courtesy to ourselves? I know that a plastic castle in the middle of the office and a regular supply of food being dropped in from above would improve my working day.

Temperature also affects the way you feel. Too hot and you're sluggish, sweaty and will regret making tea as it's definitely a myth that it cools you down. Too cold and you're forced to wear your coat indoors and test that other myth that you won't feel the benefit when you go outside."    (Continued via guardian.co.uk, Ravi Somaiya)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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