Action on Hearing Loss launched Speak Easy, its campaign that asked restaurants, cafes, and pubs “to take noise off the menu,” this past summer. Last week, the organization announced that its free Speak Easy Campaign Pack is available to the public. The pack includes:
Discreet, supportive materials to hand over to staff or leave with your bill.
Ideas for sending effective feedback.
A thumb prop for expressing your views on social media.
Action on Hearing Loss understands that “[r]epeat customers are the lifeblood of restaurants, cafes and pubs,” and that millions of people would like to enjoy a meal or drink out at a quieter venue. Rather than waiting for places to discover this underserved market, they are giving Brits the tools they need to demand quieter options.
Although there isn’t a similar campaign in the U.S.–yet–readers who live or work in New York City can find quieter venues by visiting our sister site, Quiet City Maps, which reviews and rates the noise level and comfortability of New York City restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and more. Whether you’re at your desk planning a night out with friends, or on your smart phone looking for a nearby quiet place, Quiet City Maps can help you quickly find the perfect place to eat, drink, and have a conversation!
TechRepublic writes about the “new study from Oxford Economics [that] claims that open office floor plans can hurt employee productivity” in a piece titled, “Here’s how to design the best office for your employees.” And once again we are compelled to respond as follows: When will this assault on employee productivity and morale end? Why can’t *they* bring back private work spaces?
It seems clear that nothing will be done until the bean counters can quantify the enormous costs of open plan offices. No doubt part of the problem is that it’s hard to put a dollar figure on employee distraction, frustration, and decreased morale. But one thing is clear, the absolute raft of articles on how much employees hate open plan offices indicates that they are a problem that needs to be solved or redesigned or otherwise dealt with. One day some newly minted management genius will rediscover pre-open plan office design, repackage it slightly, and give it a new name, and after the applause dies down, *they* will follow.
Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, The Boston Globe, writes about the quiet spaces Tufts Health Plan offers to its employees. While quiet spaces may seem like the newest perk du jour startups offer to lure talent, there’s another reason for these amenities:
Watertown-based Tufts is among many companies now offering quiet spaces where employees can step away from their desks for a few minutes and recharge. Such spaces are especially welcome in open offices, where workers sit in close quarters and noise carries easily. The garden and the quiet room at Tufts, which opened in recent years, have been popular with a small, enthusiastic, and growing group of employees. “The more people hear about it, the more they’re willing to try it,” says Lydia Greene, Tufts’s chief human resources officer. “Pretty soon we will need a bigger room.”
Yes, the reason for the quiet room and garden is to compensate for the uncomfortably noisy work space Tufts imposes on its employees. Sadly, the article prints the unsupported assertion that “firms eliminate private offices to foster collaboration,” when it’s not exactly a secret that the business case for open plan offices is simple: They’re cheaper.
When one considers the cost of providing quiet spaces plus the time lost when employees seek out a quiet space in which to decompress, perhaps the new trend will be a return to offices?
But nearby sous chef saves the day by engaging crowd in playful revenge prank. That the car owner found his or her car in one piece and minus deliberate scratches or slashed tires shows the compassion and self-control most people are able to exercise. Kudos to the chef for coming up with a clever way for people to vent. We can only hope that the car owner was publicly shamed as he or she came to retrieve their automobile.
Joseph Serna, L.A. Times, reports that “praise poured onto El Segundo Police Department’s Facebook page from ecstatic residents” this past Sunday, November 13th. Why? Because “'[t]hey found the air horn guy!!’ wrote Jenn Birch.” Yes, John W. Nuggent, pictured above, outfitted his “little blue four-door, 2006 Chevrolet Aveo” with “an air tank with hoses connected to a device near the car’s gas pedal.” When the officer tried the car’s horn, he heard what sounded like the horn of “a big truck or train.” Nuggent then admitted that he was the guy who had been driving down the middle of the street for six weeks, waking up the residents with his horn, all to annoy one specific resident with whom he had had a dispute.
Nuggent was arrested on suspicion of disturbing the peace. We suspect the prosecutor should get an easy conviction.
over noisy leaf-blowers. Yes, it not just a U.S. problem, leaf blowers are fraying nerves in London, too. The Telegraph writes that May, “[f]amed for his loud rock anthems,  has used his blog to criticise Kensington And Chelsea Borough Council for dismissing his road sweeper and replacing him with six people armed with noisy leaf-blowers.” We understand May’s frustration at dealing with ear-splitting noise, especially when he found, in the end, that “the state of the road was worse after the men had attempted to clear it.” May laments “the awful noise of the blowers, dust and leaves being blown into my garden, and petrol fumes,” adding that |they are creating a horrible intrusion into our lives.”
The Telegraph notes that May isn’t the only celebrity who hates leaf blowers, writing:
In May, actor Tom Conti appeared on a television show to moan about the racket from the machines, insisting they were ruining his peace and quiet.
He said: “It’s very, very loud and unnecessary. If these people can’t stand the sight of a leaf then it’s not a leaf-blower they need, it’s a psychiatrist.”
Hell is other people, with leaf blowers. David Dudley, The Atlantic City Lab, writes about “[t]he tragedy of the leaf blower,” a tool of doom that creates air and noise pollution with abandon yet is sadly beloved in the U.S. Dudley explains that “[t]he crude little two-stroke engines used by most commercial backpack-style blowers are pollution bombs,” with a third of the gasoline spewing out, unburned, “in an aerosol mixed with oil in the exhaust.” That aerosol mixes with the “fine-particulate crap” the blower stirs up, and blowers can exceed 100 decibels for the operator, with the sound carrying hundreds of feet away, disturbing everyone in its wake. It’s an informative piece, but the best part is in the first paragraph where Dudley shares the story of an ex-neighbor from hell who is known around his block as: “The Asshole With the Leaf Blower.” It’s a fun and informative read, so click the link to read the whole piece.
In his post, Dudley notes an article published days earlier by Adrian Higgins, the Washington Post’s Gardening columnist, titled: “We know you love your leaf blower, but it’s ruining the neighborhood.” In it Higgins focuses on noise pollution created by leaf blowers, noting the odd phenomenon that noise is less irritating to its creator than to its recipient. Higgins reaches out to Erica Walker, a doctoral student at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health, who explains that the reason for this is that “[r]ecipients of nuisance noise have no power over it.” Walker, we are told, “spent a year recording noise levels at 400 locations” across Boston, where she found that the leaf blower was a major contributor to the aural assault inflicted on Bostonians throughout the city.
Why focus on leaf blowers? Because the leaf blower is an effective distributor of unwanted sound. Higgins writes:
In a recent paper written with Jamie Banks, of an organization named Quiet Communities in Lincoln, Mass., Walker measured the sound from a commercial-grade gasoline blower at various distances. Even from 800 feet away, the noise was above the 55-decibel threshold at which sound is considered harmful by the World Health Organization, she said. Another problem is that the machines emit a low-frequency sound that is not measured conventionally but which travels long distances and penetrates building walls.
Higgins states that most cities don’t specifically address leaf blowers in their noise ordinances, but even if they did effective enforcement of those ordinances is lacking. Walker tells Higgins that there are two fallacies that fuel the ineffectiveness: one is the “mind-set that if you live in an urban environment, you put up with noise,” and the other is that noise is simply an annoyance. Walker disagrees:
Cities don’t have to be cacophonous, she said, and noise isn’t just an irritant; it harms one’s health. Studies have shown that tens of millions of Americans are at risk of hypertension and heart disease from the effects of noise.
HIggins asks Walker what has to be done to make the world quieter. She responds that “we need a fundamental shift in how we regard noise so that society sees it on the same plane as the environmental imperatives of recycling and reducing air pollution.”
We couldn’t agree more. Click the link to Higgins’ article to read the entire thing. It is well worth your time.
According to the World Health Organisation, noise pollution is one of the most pressing threats to public health, second only to air pollution, and responsible for a range of conditions from stress and sleep problems to heart disease and strokes — it can even make us fat.
The piece highlights the known health risks of noise and suggests ways in which readers can bring peace into their daily lives. It’s worth the read, really.
Turns Out, Not Much. Yuki Noguchi reports on co-worker noise for the NPR, presenting a couple of individual accounts of co-workers behaving badly. As you are no doubt aware, the problem is universal, with “[s]ounds, particularly those made by other humans, rank[ing] as the No. 1 distraction in the workplace.” As we have reported before, noise in the workplace has been made worse by the misguided “popularity” of open offices. They are popular with the corporate executives who impose them on an increasingly demoralized workforce, seen as a rational money-saving move because lower real estate costs are easier to quantify than decreased employee morale and productivity. And worker morale and productivity do suffer, as Noguchi notes that the “University of California’s Center for the Built Environment has a study showing workers are happier when they are in enclosed offices and less likely to take sick days.”
So, what can be done? “There are solutions,” says workplace design expert Alan Hedge. So what are those solutions? Because the “trend toward open offices and hard office furniture makes noise distraction worse,” Hedge suggests that “adding carpet, drapes and upholstery can help.” He also recommends removing cubicle walls entirely, as they “provide the illusion of sound privacy, but actually make people less aware of the noises they create.” Or you could try the advice given in this Business Insider article: How to tell a noisy coworker to shut up without making them hate you. A quick scan reveals the piece should be titled, “Things that sound like solutions but aren’t because no one will ever do this.”
Finally, there is also another option: bring back offices and let people have a quiet space to do their work. Just a suggestion.
Loud Noises Are Slowly Ruining Your Health. David Hillier, writing for Vice, examines the effects of noise pollution on health, noting that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers noise pollution “the second biggest environmental cause of health problems in humans after air pollution.” You’ll note that the WHO says “health problems” and not hearing problems, because noise pollution doesn’t just affect hearing. As Hillier writes, “[s]tudies from 2012 suggested [noise pollution] contributed to 910,000 additional cases of hypertension across Europe every year and 10,000 premature deaths related to coronary heart diseases or strokes.” Click the link above for more.