Office design, including the textures, colours, smells and sounds of the office, affects our productivity. Sound, in particular, is a crucial issue with open-plan designs as it becomes difficult to tune out the noise of colleagues. Linda Trim, director at workplace specialists Giant Leap, says: "Loud noise has definitely become one of the greatest irritants at work. "Everyone has had the unhappy experience of trying to get something important done when colleagues are making a lot of noise." She has the following advice on how to increase productivity: • When designing an office, pay as much attention to the acoustics as the aesthetics; • White noise can help, but it needs to be introduced judiciously. "Introducing white noise in all areas will mask all conversations, so it needs to be applied strategically," warns Trim; • Soundproof booths allow people to make phone calls without disturbing their neighbours; and • Wall coverings and even furniture can be used to absorb noise. "Carpe...

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