Home>Health & Wellbeing>General Health & Wellbeing>Noisy offices lowering productivity
Home>Managing Health & Safety>Noise Monitoring>Noisy offices lowering productivity

Noisy offices lowering productivity

21 September 2022

OSCAR ACOUSTICS has released findings from its latest study into workplace noise, with 2,000 office workers polled.

Once again workplace topics surrounding low productivity, problems filling job vacancies and a four-day week for the same pay are in the UK headlines, highlighting that bosses need to prioritise employee wellbeing and efficiency.

The UK has seen fewer workers return to the office full time than in any other European nation. While this is frequently put down to long commutes, there’s another potential reason…our offices are just too noisy. 

Office gripes 

Highlighting this concerning situation, Oscar Acoustics’ study found just 8% 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%), and other people on calls (34%). Colleagues eating (21%), co-workers singing/humming (19%) and a similar number are troubled by others’ bodily sounds (e.g. scratching). 

Four in ten 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 ten 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%), moving desks (17%), or wearing headphones (23%). 

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%), their bosses (12%), raising grievances (16%) and leaving passive aggressive notes (11%).  

Health issues

High levels of excessive noise can cause permanent health damage, and 15% 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. 

Turning it down

You’d expect bosses to take things very seriously considering the gravity of the issue, but only 20% of employees say this is the case. 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%), soundproofing (21%), training for noisy people (25%), and implementing quiet zones (25%). Other adjustments include moving a loud team (18%). One in seven workers said their boss had fired someone for being too noisy. 

Positively, only one in ten employees said their company didn’t take noise levels seriously. 

Sound solutions

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.

Commenting on the study, 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 from here