Why perception of noise and objective recording can be at odds

New scientific research suggests that the state of employee wellbeing can make levels of noise, dust or glare seems worse than they really are – this is just one of several new studies throwing fresh light on the changing workplace

Have you ever wondered why employee perceptions of such workplace irritants as noise, glare or dust are so often at odds with objective measures of conditions in the office? You know the scenario: people complain about the acoustics, for example, but the actual decibel level recorded is lower than is being reported and does not justify the howls of complaint.

‘Office environment is moderated by positive emotions…’

Now there is scientific research to explain the phenomenon. According to a diary study of 59 office workers led by a research team from the University of Valencia, worker wellbeing plays a big role in assessing environmental stressors. In other words, if people are generally feeling good about their workplace then their assessment of noise or glare or dust is moderated by those positive emotions. If the opposite is true, the perception of noise, for example, can sound much worse than the objective measure.

The research has been published in a scientific journal Environment and Behaviour and is one of several new studies discussed in a new column by Sally Augustin, editor of Research Design Connections, in WORKTECH Academy’s Innovation Zone.

To read more, please go to the Innovation Zone.

Sally Augustin PhD is a practicing environmental design psychologist and editor of Research Design Connections, based in Chicago. She provides monthly scientific commentary for the Academy’s Innovation Zone on new academic research in work and workplace.