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Noisy workplaces are damaging productivity and health for office workers

Noisy offices are lowering productivity, with 60 per cent of office workers unable to concentrate and delivering poor quality work due to loud workspaces, according to a new study by Oscar Acoustics.

The specialists in architectural acoustic finishes, has released findings from its latest study into workplace noise, with 2,000 office workers polled, which revealed that excessive noise is fraying co-worker connections, with a third irritated by colleagues and a fifth (18 per cent) seeing office relationships damaged due to sound levels. One in five under 30s have also resorted to physical violence due to the disturbance.

Office gripes

Oscar Acoustics’ study found just eight per cent work in a quiet office, with only a quarter of office workers working in a space that’s been well designed for their job.

The sounds most likely to stop people from working effectively are colleagues talking to each other (38 per cent), and other people on calls (34 per cent). Colleagues eating (21 per cent), co-workers singing/humming (19 per cent) and a similar number are troubled by others’ bodily sounds (e.g. scratching).

Four in 10 office workers said poor acoustics were impacting their concentration, and a third said their mood was negatively affected, with a quarter reporting stress induced by exceptionally high noise levels.

When asked about noise issues, a concerning one in 10 have resorted to physical violence (with one in five of the Gen Z demographic). Thankfully, most office workers are resisting the temptation of taking extreme measures, trying to avoid the din by working from home (21 per cent), moving desks (17 per cent), or wearing headphones (23 per cent).

It’s well known a happy team drives up results. Yet, too much noise is fraying office relationships, with workers reporting snapping at colleagues (17 per cent), their bosses (12 per cent), raising grievances (16 per cent) and leaving passive aggressive notes (11 per cent).

Health issues

High levels of excessive noise can cause permanent health damage, and 15 per cent of UK office workers say that their workplaces have damaged their hearing. Additionally, a fifth say it led to disturbed sleep and a quarter reported stress due to noise levels in their office.

The World Health Organization states that excess noise is harmful to health, and when asked, only a third of UK workers associated excessive noise with hearing loss, high blood pressure and just one in seven understood that it could lead to diabetes, stroke, heart disease and heart attacks.

Combatting workplace noise levels

Considering the gravity of the issue, only 20 per cent of employees say their employers are taking workplace noise levels seriously. However, they do admit that most companies have made some adjustments to the office environment, with only a third saying that nothing had been done.

Common adaptations include installing physical barriers (26 per cent), soundproofing (21 per cent), training for noisy people (25 per cent), and implementing quiet zones (25 per cent). Other adjustments include moving a loud team (18 per cent). One in seven workers said their boss had fired someone for being too noisy.

On a positive note, only one in 10 employees said their company didn’t take noise levels seriously.

With one in three office workers saying they’re either late with projects, or turning in poorer quality work due to the noise, one quick win, which can make a significant difference, is addressing workplace noise levels.

Ben Hancock from Oscar Acoustics said: “Employers are facing real challenges around staffing and needing to achieve the same results with fewer people. That’s why bosses must consider how employees can use workspaces most effectively. This means understanding that while aesthetics are important, you also have to consider how people work and ensure that there are spaces for collaboration, concentration and connection. Noise may seem a minor irritant, but not addressing this could hurt your business’s bottom line and put your employee’s health at risk.” 

The whitepaper Noise Annoys can be downloaded here.

Creating a positive visitor experience in a Hybrid world of work

While some personnel are finally returning to the office – the great majority of organisations (up to 83 per cent) anticipate a hybrid mix of on-premises and working from home to continue for the foreseeable future.

This means that when it comes to providing access to the workplace, where once it was simply enough to maintain a welcoming reception for visitors, organisations today must also keep a close eye on access permissions in real-time to keep buildings safe and secure while ensuring they comply with compliance.

Pitney Bowes Smart Access Management in association with FMJ has produced a new White Paper which explains how to create a welcoming, actively managed environment for authorised people.

It explains how new Smart Access Management™ (SAM) delivers a complete, real-time and data-driven view of all your people, visitors and contractors, to help give you greater control and visibility.

To download the white paper click here.


About Sarah OBeirne

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