Anyone that has ever worked in a call center knows that these fast-paced environments can often become a cacophony of noise as callers compete to have their voices heard over the constant din of phone call activity. As conversation levels escalate, the walls, ceilings and windows reflect the energy back into the room, further amplifying the noise to a point where it becomes difficult to concentrate.
Considering that most callers work extended hours, it is no wonder that they are often ineffective after a given amount of time. The noise inside the room causes tremendous distraction which in turn causes what is known as ear fatigue. Instead of concentrating on the job, the brain is working ‘overtime’ at blocking out unnecessary noise and the caller ends up being totally exhausted. The results are predictable: productivity suffers and turnover increases.
The solution is simple: reduce the ambient noise. The best approach to solving the problem is by mounting high quality acoustic panels on any available wall surfaces. The more acoustic panels you put up, the more sound you will attenuate.
To solve the problem, we must begin by identifying where the problem is. This is in fact quite simple as the ‘noise problem' in a call center is of course, the human voice. In general terms, much of the energy contained in the human voice ranges between 200Hz and 100Hz and is centered around 500Hz.
If we take a closer look at a regular voice (green line) and superimpose it on top of two common acoustic panels, we can visualize how the human voice and these acoustic panels will interact. Generally speaking, the thicker the acoustic panel, the lower the frequency it will absorb. But as clearly shown here, the density of the acoustic panel plays an important role. Both panels are 2” thick. But they are different: the Broadway panel is made from high-density 6lb glass wool while the other is made from low density 1.3lb* foam. (*estimated)
As evident, the 2-inch Broadway panel delivers better 100% absorption down to 350Hz while the 2-inch urethane foam panel barely attains 60% absorption. And as the voice descends into the 200Hz region, the Broadway panel continues to deliver 90% absorption while the urethane panel’s performance has dropped to about 20% efficiency.
Testing performed by Riverbank Acoustical Laboratories. The test method conformed explicitly with the requirements of the ASTM Standard Test Method for Sound Absorption and Sound Absorption Coefficients by the Reverberation Room Method: ASTM C 423-02a and E795-05.
Some office divider manufacturers will tout the ‘acoustical performance’ of their cubicle walls as providing a functional solution to reducing office noise. Office dividers do impede sound transmission between adjacent staff, but do little at reducing the offending sound in the room. As office dividers rarely employ more than ½-inch (1.25cm) of absorptive ‘padding’ inside the divider wall, it is doubtful that much if any energy will be absorbed below 2000Hz. In fact exhaustive searches on the internet turned up nothing: we could not find a single office furniture cubicle maker that actually publishes the absorptive coefficient of their products. Without specifications to rely on, one can only guess as to the final results. The point being, acoustic dividers will not solve the problem. You need a high performance acoustic panel like the Broadway if you want to enjoy tangible results.
As with any acoustic installation, the more acoustic panels you put up on the walls and ceiling, the greater the sound you will absorb. As a rule of thumb, applying 15% to 25% of the wall surface with Broadway acoustic panels tends to work well.
Broadway panels are generally distributed throughout the office space at ear height or higher - above the desk and cubicles. This effectively absorbs direct sound while also absorbing sound energy as it reflects off the ceiling. In order to get more for your money, it is good practice to sketch the office area and position panels in such a way that echo cannot sustain itself between two parallel wall surfaces. This reduces flutter echo in the room.
For even greater control, you can add ceiling treatment in the form of an acoustic cloud. Nimbus ceiling clouds are particularly effective when they are hung above the telemarketers as this brings the absorptive panels closer to the sound source. This effectively controls echo before it gets into the room, essentially stopping the problem in its tracks.
When considering acoustic panels, fire safety should be of utmost concern. Urethane foam panels will not conform to class-A fire safety levels and should be avoided even if the office is equipped with sprinklers. With high staff densities in metropolitan areas, it is also wise that you contact your insurance company to ensure that your installation complies with local building regulations. Broadway panels have been tested and are class-A fire safe which makes them suitable for use in most public buildings and more demanding installations.
By improving the acoustics in a call center, you not only lower the overall noise, but will immediately notice that the staff will be less irritable as the day wears on. Happier staff generally results in better performance and lower turnover. Broadway panels deliver full bandwidth absorption, are easy to install and look great!
To determine the coverage, we have created a series of easy-to-use tables that enable you to choose between various degrees of treatment depending on your budget and the desired outcome. Most facilities find that a ‘light’ level of treatment provides sufficient sound abatement while keeping the budget in check. If budgets are tight, start with minimal treatment and then add more panels as funds become available.