Is it possible to reduce the number of illnesses in a wholesale and foreign trade company by an amazing twelve percent within 18 months? “It is; and it is very simple,” says Dr. Monika V. Kronbügel (PhD.), CEO of Global DiVision.

Her team was called because more and more chairs were staying empty in the open-concept offices of the company in the heart of Madrid. The employees were not missing because of colds or stomach flu, but rather partly because of serious psychological problems. “We analyzed this and quickly established that the work load was not the greatest stress factor, but rather it was the noise.” Ringing telephones, the various ring
tones of cell phones, the beeping of computers and photocopiers and, of course, the dear colleagues talking with the loudness of a long distance call that actually would not require a telephone.

Even far below a noise level of 85 decibels, noise can make you sick; especially when it is not perceived as disturbing. “Noise is an independent risk factor for heart and circulatory illnesses,” warns the cardiologist, who was brought in by Global DiVision because of the symptoms of the staff. The noise creates stress reactions where hormones like adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol are released. That in turn increases blood pressure and heart rates which can even cause a heart attack. “Such noisier and noisier open-concept offices of the 1990s were also popular with us,” says the Spanish partner of GDIC. “Today, they are just as disreputable as large scale livestock farming.”

The result was health management with support with the help of the tradesmen. They renovated the office halls into successively smaller units for a maximum of three people, which not only seriously dropped the noise level, but also the number of sick people.

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