Plans have been unveiled by the Association of Australasian Acoustical Consultants to crowdfund a research project that will explore how best to design workplaces for optimal productivity and employee performance.
The association, known by its abbreviated form AAAC, is aiming to raise $150,000 by the end of July through a crowdfunding campaign called “Designing workplaces that work”.
It referred to previous studies suggesting that open-plan offices are counterproductive, suggesting that around half of office workers can’t concentrate and suffer from stress as a direct result of their workplace.
Combined, the AAAC said these problems cost employers a collective $10 billion plus each year.
Research will be carried out by researchers from Bond University which include TEDx speaker and assistant professor of organisational behaviour Dr Libby Sander, assistant professor of psychology Dr Oliver Baumann and associate professor of computing Dr James Birt.
The study aims to identify the role of acoustics in workplace productivity and wellbeing; how acoustics relate to other variables in an office environment (such as lighting, design quality and temperature); and optimal layouts, including the number of internal walls and the proportion of open space versus “quiet space”.
A combination of field experiments and laboratory work will be used to analyse the impacts that noise and distraction in modern offices have on employee performance and wellbeing, using scientific measurements including EEG brain scans, testing levels of cortisol, augmented and virtual reality simulations (pictured) and performance testing.
Matthew Stead, chair of the AAAC, said that he has seen first-hand as an acoustical consultant how poorly designed workplaces can impact the people inhabiting them.
“It not only impacts productivity and the bottom line, but can affect an individual’s mental and physical health if issues aren’t addressed,” he said.
“We believe we can spearhead change that starts in Australia and then spreads the impact across the rest of the world.”
Mr Stead added: “This important piece of research will be a one-off opportunity to change the status quo.”
According to the AAAC website, the research will go ahead regardless of whether the $150,000 target is reached, with the organisation seeking grants funding to match the amount pledged dollar for dollar.
A spokesperson for the AAAC said that as of Monday (22 July), the project has so far raised $31,500.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.