dBx Acoustics

Noise, Fatigue and Acoustic Design In Call Centres

We are all familiar with call centres – and most of the time when we talk about them it’s from the caller’s point of view. Are you frustrated when you are put through to someone in another country? Does the fake friendliness of the scripted interaction annoy you? But step back for a moment and remember some of those calls – was there something else that bothered you?

I know from my own experience that many a time I have been able to hear the operator on the next phone, and sometimes the whole hubbub of the call centre, which both makes it difficult to focus on your own conversation, and may give you some concerns about the privacy of your own conversation.

Noise transfer between call stations, and the build up of noise in general, is even more of a problem for call handlers, who need to maintain their focus over many hours. High background noise levels lead to physical and mental fatigue and therefore reduced efficiency, as well as the potential for operators to suffer from vocal fatigue which may lead to higher than normal absence rates through sickness. A 2008 study found that 28.7% of workers suffered permanent auditory fatigue, and that by the end of the working day this number had risen to 71.3%. The same study showed 48% of workers reporting vocal problems over the previous 12 month period.

This issue isn’t about to go away, either – the world’s largest call centre, with 20,000 seats, is about to open in China.

In the UK, over a million people work in the industry and there are over 5,000 call centres. Clearly both from the point of view of employer’s extracting the best and most efficient work from their employees, and for the health and welfare of the employees themselves, acoustic conditions in call centres need to be carefully considered, whatever their size.

Whether you’re planning a new contact centre, or having issues in an existing facility, it’s worth talking to a qualified acoustic consultant before you embark on the installation of acoustic treatments. A careful balance of both screening and acoustically absorptive finishes is required, and even the noise produced by the ventilation system can be used to help provide some sound masking. A consultant such as dBx Acoustics can model the space and demonstrate the auditory effect of different treatment options, allowing the client to assess the relative benefits and costs of various treatment schemes. Being able to optimize the placement and quantity of acoustic treatments allows a more effective and cost-conscious approach to acoustics, rather than just installing some absorptive treatments and hoping for the best.

Happier, healthier call centre workers? More calls, dealt with better, with lower staff absence rates? It sounds good to us. If you would like to talk to dBx Acoustics about how we can help you with call centre acoustics, please contact us!

dBx helps boost productivity in co-working space

As the workplace evolves, more and more people are working flexibly – whether that be late at night, from a sun terrace in Italy, or in a specially designed co-working space.

Clockwise provide the latter – contemporary private offices and shared workspace with flexible membership plans. With sites in Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow, we were delighted to be asked to work on their “new kid on the dock” at the iconic Edward Pavilion on Liverpool’s world-famous Albert Dock.

Appointed by international construction company Ardmac in 2018 and working alongside architects 74, we were asked to help with specifying partitions between the workspaces. Sound insulation is very important for bustling co-working spaces, helping to provide settings that support different activities, such as having private conversations, focused/individual work and collaborative sessions.

We assisted the partition specification and detailing to maintain sound insulation between different workspaces while ensuring we didn’t impact the fabric of the building, which is a 19th century warehouse with preserved original features, including cast iron columns, Victorian brickwork and barrel vaulted ceilings.

We also worked on building services noise control, particularly on the upper floor, which features air handling units sitting on plant decks suspended within the open plan office space.

A historic building on a historic site, we’re proud to have worked on this challenging and exciting project.

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