Sound as a pound

24 Jan

The Safety Management team recently moved across the office. Now we are all sitting together in a little hub of wonder and creativity. It’s a more comfortable spot for us all to be together and it helps communication between us. I no longer have to shout or wave across the office at people to get their attention when I want one of those, you know, conversations.

However, the move hasn’t been without its surprises. Noisy surprises.

It’s quite remarkable how used you can get to an environment with certain sounds. Whilst on the other side of the office, we had to contend with loud telephone chatterers, I also had the luxury of a colleague’s low-level radio: soft music is subconsciously calming whilst reading and writing, and I didn’t even know I actually listened to it so much until I came over here and wondered where those romantic ballads were.

Of course, then I started singing them, but this only lasted about 3 minutes until my new neighbours told me to shut up.

That’s the interesting thing about noise and sounds: they are so very personal. Now, we are closer to the refreshments and printing area of the office. There are new noises which come with these: the fridge, the copier. And the funny thing has been noticing how we only realise how loud they can be when they aren’t there.

GRRRRRRRR-UMMMMMMMMMMM, and then… silence. “Blimey, that fridge is loud isn’t it?” Everyone agrees. Then, the next time it stops whirring, everyone looks up as if they are missing something.

While noises, or rather, sounds, can be beneficial: they can calm and relax us, so they can also be stress-inducing. There are very few workplaces which are totally silent and so each one has a myriad of sounds we have to get used to whilst trying to focus on the task in hand. Some of us are better at this than others. And studies have shown that elevated noise levels can result in more workplace aggression and anti-social behaviour, as well as inducing stress. This is something no employer or employee wants, especially when it is probably something which can be easily rectified. In a case of noise intrusion, it has got to be best to speak UP rather than go quiet and suffer in silence.

We do live in a world that is less free of noise: a bus ride without a loud mobile phone conversation is a rarity. Text messages beeping, mp3 players blasting, emails pinging into in-boxes, instant messages ker-ching-ing onto the screen: the modern world is noisy and distracting.

So maybe the fridge isn’t so bad, after all. At least it doesn’t take us away from what we are supposed to be…


Sorry, that was my bank calling. Time to turn it to silent, I think.

Check out February’s issue of Safety Management for a feature on noise and the effect it can have on the workplace and employees’ hearing: Keeping your hearing as sound as a bell.


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