The Office Workforce Revolution: How Acoustics Can Help Retain Top Talent

Even with the widespread availability of COVID vaccinations, many businesses in the service sector are having trouble filling jobs. Office workers, too, have their concerns about returning to work on site. As we emerge from COVID restrictions, corporate employers are facing a major work revolution. Employees are in control and they know it.

An EY survey finds that 54% of employees globally would quit their jobs if not provided post-pandemic flexibility including a hy-brid office option. The hybrid office allows employees to divide their time between office and home office.

“Employees’ willingness to change jobs in the current economic environment is a game-changer,” according to Liz Fealy, EY Global People Advisory Services Deputy Leader and EY Global Workforce Advisory and Solutions Leader. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that flexibility can work for both employees and employers, and flexible working is the new currency for attracting and retaining top talent.”

Offering people options about where and when to work is not a new idea.

Years before the pandemic, there was a movement to make working from home a standard practice. As Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom noted in an IDE-AS.TED.COM blog, “The need to go into a workplace five days a week started because people had to go to a factory and make products. Companies that still treat employees like that are in-creasingly finding themselves at a disadvantage.”

Now, as we emerge from COVID, employers are finally on the same page. Many are eager to transition to a hybrid workplace.

However, even when employees are guaranteed the flexibility they have always craved, a poor-ly executed hybrid office could alienate them and cause them to seek employment elsewhere. After working at home for more than a year, they will be making comparisons. Acoustics are sure to be at the top of the list when returning employees evaluate their quality of (work) life at home vs their workspace in the office. In fact, Interface’s “What’s that Noise” study found acoustics to be workers’ number one complaint.

We will not all be in the office at the same time, but it would be noisier even though occupancy will be decreased. This is because people and their clothing both absorb sound. We also tend to speak more quietly when others are nearby.

When designing your competitive hybrid office, keep in mind that hard surfaces in the workplace reflect sound, and the reverberation time (RT) goes up when there are fewer people. When room surfaces are highly reflective, sound continues to reflect or reverberate, creating a live space with a long RT. This in turn causes a buildup of the noise level in a space—and acoustic discom-fort.

Snowsound’s fixed and movable panels combine elegant Italian design with patented technology that addresses RT better than any other product on the market. Variable-density construction is engineered to reduce reverberation and echo in a space by selectively absorbing sound from all frequencies. In fact, they are the only acoustic panels that selectively absorb low, medium, and high frequencies. Snowsound is more effective than felt or PET, because Snowsound panels absorb 100% of sound waves that hit them.

Snowsound's large range of product offerings and applications includes ceiling-hung modules, desk dividers and space-dividing fiber textiles. See them here.

Some employees will only want to touch down in the office one day a week—others will prefer five. You can help shape this outcome by designing a place where people want to come back to work, where they feel their wellbeing is a priority and they are being taken care of.
Create a nurturing office culture that emphasizes flexibility, health, and an acoustically comfort-able environment where employees can do their best work. This is how to retain talent in a com-petitive market.

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