Poor acoustics hamper productivity and deter people from spending more time in the office

acousticsNoisy offices are lowering productivity, with 60 percent of office workers unable to concentrate and delivering poor quality work due to loud workspaces, is deterring people from returning to offices more often, and can even lead to violence. Those are the key findings of a new poll of 2,000 workers from Oscar Acoustics. The survey [registration] suggests that just 8 percent of people feel they work in a quiet office, with only a quarter of office workers working in a space that has well designed acoustics for their job.

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

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 percent), moving desks (17 percent), or wearing headphones (23 percent).

Too much noise is also fraying relationships, with workers reporting snapping at colleagues (17 percent), their bosses (12 percent), raising grievances (16 percent) and leaving passive aggressive notes (11 percent).

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

Only 20 percent of employees say that their employer has taken action on acoustic design. 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 percent), soundproofing (21 percent), training for noisy people (25 percent), and implementing quiet zones (25 percent). Other adjustments include moving a loud team (18 percent). 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.

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.