October 18, 2022
Offices have been reopening and trying to entice employees back for a while now. And while many people have thrived while working from home, the return to office has been a welcome change, with staff missing in-person interactions with their clients and colleagues. However, as people have become accustomed to the relative quiet at home (kids excluded, of course), being thrust back into an office setting could take some getting used to. Research shows 56 percent of office workers are concerned that noise levels in the office will make them less productive. Between colleagues chatting over each other, desk-phones ringing, and impromptu virtual calls, there are a range of distractions staff must contend with.
For workers at their desks and in shared spaces, these distractions can make it difficult to concentrate. And while offices have always been noisy, it seems employees’ tolerance levels have depleted since working from home.
The same research shows the issue of noise could become a point of friction, as 60% think they’ll become fed up if their noisy co?workers break their concentration. Equally, 42% worry they will be prone to noise rage if their colleagues are too loud. This combination could lead to a volatile office environment, particularly if hot desking is in place and office workers don’t know the people around them.
With that in mind, here are three tips for helping staff thrive in an office environment.
1 – Ensure all staff are well-equipped
Whether working remotely or from the office, by phone or via laptop, everyone should be equipped to participate as equals in all meetings, no matter how they choose to work.
Many office workers are likely familiar with being present in a virtual meeting, yet unable to hear people’s voices properly, or distracted by background noise. As such, it’s imperative employers do what they can to ensure all participants have an equal meeting experience – allowing them to contribute to them effectively.
Different personas will likely have different preferences, and for some, a semi-reliable WiFi connection will be more than enough. But where remote working has become normalised, and 42% of workers say they’ll be prone to noise rage if colleagues are too loud, it’s imperative employers take all preferences seriously and cater to them as far as possible.
2 – Keep customer experience in mind
Not only could noise have an effect on employees, but it could also jeopardise the customer experience.
For example, if a customer has to repeat themselves, especially when communicating basic information, their experience can easily turn from a minor hassle into a bona fide customer service nightmare. Of course, this increases the likelihood they will go elsewhere for a better, less draining experience. And it could also cause frustration for employees themselves, who could struggle to stay motivated when let down by technology, and harm the reputation of their organisation as a result.
Organisations can address the issues of noise by prioritising meeting equality, so whether or not they’re working remotely, employees have equally smooth and convenient experiences.
To do this, employers must understand how each individual likes to work, and appreciate there could be major communication differences between staff, even those in the same department. By understanding each persona and how they like to work, organisations will be primed to equip individuals with the right tools and create the right meeting spaces to meet their specific needs.
3 – Where possible, redesign the office to support employees’ needs
Respecting individual needs is paramount, and this also means the collective space in which those individuals work should be thoroughly thought out. Organisations aiming at reducing noise should redesign their offices to support new ways of working. By understanding how employees like to work, organisations can design spaces to suit these needs.
For example, our research shows that 77% of organisations are planning to redesign the office to create more open and collaboration spaces, while also creating ‘quiet zones’ and huddle spaces. This can play a vital role in reducing noise distractions, meeting the needs of employees with different ways of getting things done, while also ensuring staff working remotely are on a par with office-based workers.
To make the return to office as smooth as possible – and to create a successful long-term hybrid working strategy – organisations must ensure noise is less a hinderance and more a function of effective collaboration. By connecting people, spaces and technology, organisations can make the office experience a positive and welcoming one, ensuring employees sound their best no matter where they’re physically located.
Companies should be mindful of treating the office return as simply that: as a return to the way things were pre-Covid. As times have changed, so have staff expectations, and tolerance for office noise is arguably lower than ever. Ensuring all employees can work effectively – whether it’s through workplace technology, office redesigns or simply being mindful of staff preferences – is vital to support the future of work.