Can’t hear yourself think in your new open-concept office? You’re not alone

Whistle while you work, it will drive everyone else crazy.

Sure, it’s an old joke, but distracting, unwanted noise is an increasing problem for employees in modern open-concept offices. The design trend is to remove acoustic tiles from ceilings and rip out carpeting and dividing walls that traditionally dampened the sound of a busy office.

About 70 per cent of U.S. offices now have low or no partitions between work spaces, according to the International Facility Management Association. The proportion is nearly as large in Canadian offices, particularly in Toronto, where it’s common to strip down modern offices to resemble warehouse-like spaces.

It’s reaching the point where many companies are going too far with open concept, said Matthew Simpson, vice-president of project management and design for the Toronto office of corporate real estate firm Savills Studley Canada (formerly Real Facilities Inc.), which specializes in tenant representation.

“Recently on employee surveys acoustics are among the top things that people complain about. It’s being exacerbated by the trend to a more industrial look in design, with hard surfaces everywhere,” he noted.

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