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Noisy workspaces keeps staff at home

02 October 2023

FINANCIAL BUSINESSES encouraging their teams back into the office are failing due to an ‘overwhelming problem with noise’, a new report The UK’s Productivity Pitfall reveals.

The study, by acoustic experts, Oscar Acoustics, found that in the financial services sector, workers were struggling to be enticed back to the office due to ‘excessive noise levels’. A survey of 1,500 UK finance and professional services employees and managers was conducted by OnePoll, in May 2023.

In fact, eight out of ten of those in senior management reported receiving noise complaints, leaving staff unable to focus, impacting their productivity. Over a third of bankers blame ‘poor quality work’ and a drop in job performance as a result of ‘sky high’ noise. Nearly three quarters (74%) reported they can work better at home than in the office because it was easier to focus.

The problem is so severe that over a quarter (26%) said they needed to work outside of their contracted hours to compensate for a decline in productivity, which has also led to over a third (36%) experiencing a rise in stress levels.

This comes following a nationwide push from employers to scale back flexible working arrangements in an effort to boost workplace productivity – Lloyds Bank recently set mandatory days to enhance productivity and refine working-from-home processes.

Back in May of this year, the Financial Times also reported that office attendance was just 60% of pre-pandemic levels, leading to an indication that city centre businesses will see a hit to their economy.

A similar sentiment was found in Oscar Acoustics’ own research – one in six financial services managers believe that hybrid working is ‘draining’ workplace productivity.

Despite the problems with ‘unchecked’ noise levels, often caused by a lack of attention to acoustics, some businesses are taking action in an attempt to ‘turn down the volume’.

The study found that more than four in ten businesses have implemented noise-reducing measures to help cull the spread of sound, including acoustic desk screens and barriers, improved spatial planning and acoustic wall and ceiling sprays. 

Yet despite preventative measures, a staggering 11% of respondents believe their workplaces have had an adverse effect on their hearing and around one in five admitted to sleep disruption.

Ben Hancock, managing director of Oscar Acoustics, said: “The nation’s longstanding issue with office noise is now having a direct impact on productivity levels. 

“The financial services sector has found itself in a difficult position. Businesses are looking to mandate more time in the office, but quite simply, employees are finding office noise unbearable. Without a solution, it’s understandable why staff are unwilling to spend more time at their desks.

“Both staff and employers need to recognise that change is afoot. However, if workers are to meet expectations, they will need environments that support their health, happiness, and importantly, their ears.”

To find out more about Oscar Acoustics’ study into workplace noise within the financial services sector, you can download the 2023 Report – The UK’s Productivity Pitfall, here.