Quiet Mark and Karndean on how noise-reduction flooring can reduce work stress – whether you're working from home, or in the office
Words by Toby Maxwell
Noise in the workplace annoys us – a lot. A 2011 British Journal of Psychology study found that whether reading or writing, background noise is a productivity killer, and can also be a cause of stress in our bodies – potentially leading to health issues. It can also reduce strategic and creative thinking, making even the simplest of tasks more difficult.
But noise is not a problem that only occurs in our offices. A chorus of background noises in our homes – such as other people’s telephone conversations, hair dryers, television and radio, children playing, kitchen appliances – alongside outdoor sounds like traffic, garden tools, nearby construction or planes flying overhead can all combine to make our homes as loud, if not louder, than our offices.
An April report by Morgan Stanley showed that only 34% of UK workers who could go back to the office have actually done so, and many businesses have publicly stated that they will extend the option to work from home indefinitely. This raises a very important question: how conducive are our domestic soundscapes to work productivity?
The average office is about 50–60dB, which isn’t particularly quiet. Each time the decibel increases by ten, we perceive it as a doubling of noise. At 65dB, noise becomes irritating and affects our well-being.
In 2012, Quiet Mark – the international approval certification programme associated with the UK Noise Abatement Society charitable foundation – set out to help improve everyday acoustics with a consumer campaign for the use of quieter technology in our homes, workplaces, living spaces and outdoor environments. It encourages companies worldwide to prioritise noise reduction within the design of appliances, machines and building materials, and find solutions to noise problems.
In addition to its expert team of acousticians – which rigorously tests and accredits household appliances as varied as Dyson’s Supersonic hairdryer, Dualit’s Classic Kettle and Miele’s dishwashers – Quiet Mark has recently launched its Acoustics Academy platform to equip and empower architects and home builders with a guide to expertly verified acoustic solutions for every building application area. In addition to approved specialist materials, such as Pella windows, Saint- Gobain Ecophon ceiling and wall panels, Rockwool insulation and Armourcoat Acoustic and BASWA acoustic plaster systems, the site also features acoustic flooring from brands including Interface, Karndean Design flooring and NOX.
Nox’s Soundprotec Ecolay tiles have been ratified by Quiet Mark’s new Acoustics Academy, a new guide to the noise properties of materials
‘When Quiet Mark tests or verifies acoustic flooring, we take into consideration the variety of factors that can affect the sound quality of the spaces where it is installed,’ says Poppy Szkiler, Quiet Mark’s CEO and founder. ‘These include how well the product can reduce sound from one room to another, how it behaves under footfall and how well it dampens sound reflections in the room to enable effective speech communication.’
‘As we have found ourselves spending extra time at home over the past year, and perhaps working at home for the first time,’ says Fleur Carson, commercial sales director at Karndean, ‘it’s even more important than ever to create a quiet and peaceful environment where we can be productive, creative and relax together as a family.
‘Distractions due to the noise of daily life can make it difficult to concentrate on any task at hand, and this can lead to increasing levels of stress, fatigue and even physical illnesses, such as high blood pressure and tension headaches.’
Carson adds that Karndean’s luxury vinyl flooring sets out to address this by being distinctively quieter than laminate flooring or natural wood and stone. Particularly suitable for upstairs rooms or multi-level developments where ambient noise levels can be a concern, Karndean’s rigid core and loose lay formats feature pre-attached enhanced acoustic backing that can reduce noise transfer to floors below by up to 21dB.
At the start of March 2020, just before lockdown, there were 350 Quiet Mark-certified products by 60 brands on its website. One year later, that has more than tripled to over 1,000 products by 80 brands across 61 product categories. The increase of entries comes directly in response to global changes this year, as consumers and trade buyers have needed more help to source products to create a domestic soundscape more conducive to a productive work-from-home environment.
‘John Lewis [has been] a long-standing retail partner of ours for the past seven years,’ Szkiler continues. ‘It has seen a huge increase of 225% in customer engagements searching for Quiet Mark in its navigation bar, and then 100,000s of customers shopping at John Lewis online, searching for Quiet Mark-certified products with the checkbox on the left-hand side of the navigation menu.
‘Responsible acoustic design can have a profound positive impact on our emotional, mental and physical health – more than we often understand. You can have a stunning design but it might feel awful and be very uncomfortable to live or work with when sound waves are bouncing around off hard surfaces.
‘With sensitivity for the long-term benefits of using acoustic solutions, rooms can look just as impressive with the warmth and comfort of an absorbent material structure that transforms a living space profoundly.’