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Avoid Stress by Re-Working your Work Space


Today’s worker is stressed. Stressed by life and its inherent problems, stressed by children and their never-ending needs, stressed by career goals, stressed by office conflicts, and stressed by office noise. It makes sense that a stressed worker is not a happy worker. But you might not know that a stressed worker is not an efficient or productive worker either. In fact, a study conducted by Cornell University found that workers in open-style offices with only low-level noise:

  1. Experienced significantly higher levels of stress.
  2. Made 40 percent fewer attempts to solve difficult problems.
  3. Made only half as many ergonomic adjustments to their workstations as did their colleagues in quiet offices, resulting in an increase in repetitive strain injuries (such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) and workers’ comp claims.

However, several other studies (all published in professional journals) found that the following improvements resulted from improved speech privacy levels, such as through sound masking and the use of white noise:

  1. Focus: the ability of office workers to focus on their tasks improved by 48%
  2. Distractions: “conversational distractions” decreased by 51%
  3. Error-rates: performance of standard “information-worker” tasks (measured in terms of accuracy [error-rates] and short-term memory) improved by 10%
  4. Stress: when measured in terms of the actual physical symptoms of stress, stress was reduced by 27%

By covering intrusive noise with white noise, workers were able to focus, be less distracted, make fewer errors, and have less stress. Based on the first study, it’s reasonable to assume that they were freed to solve more problems and make the necessary ergonomic adjustments for increased productivity.

Stress is hard to avoid. But it can be lessened by being proactive in how you design your work space.