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Loud office © iStock
Noise at work is impacting health and productivity, new survey reveals © iStock

14 March 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

In a survey of 1,000 UK-based office workers, 65 per cent reported that noise in the workplace impacted their ability to complete work in an accurate and timely manner. 

Nearly half (44 per cent) said noise had a negative impact on their overall well-being, with over 40 per cent reporting that noise at work caused them to feel stressed.

The ‘Noise and Wellbeing at Work 2019’ survey has been conducted by business solutions company The Remark Group, supported by environmental psychologist and workplace strategist Dr Nigel Oseland, an honorary senior lecturer at UCL’s Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering.  

The survey highlighted that 52 per cent of people report they are interrupted by noise distractions more than five times in a working day, with 17 per cent stating that they are interrupted more than 10 times a day. 

Recent research suggests that every time we are interrupted, it takes 15 minutes to get back in a state of focus. This could mean over an hour of wasted time each day for over half of the workforce, contributing significantly to lost productivity.

Dr Nigel Oseland said: “Remark’s research shows that noise is the biggest cause of dissatisfaction in the modern workplace, along with an associated loss of performance, increased stress and poorer well-being. 

“As more companies are adopting open plan design and agile working, the core challenge to the workplace community, designers and suppliers is to resolve office noise distraction and enhance focused work, whilst maintaining collaborative and creative environments. Remark’s research and services contribute to providing the solution.”

Sixty-four per cent of workers surveyed also reported they often suffer from a lack of privacy at work, with over half (51 per cent) stating they have overheard confidential or sensitive information being discussed in the office and nearly 70 per cent have overheard a colleague being upset or distressed.

Over half of employees said they are reluctant to speak about a confidential, business-sensitive or personal issue at work, for fear of being overheard, with 41 per cent feeling anxious about being overheard and 45 per cent reporting they feel anxious about hearing something they shouldn’t.

According to the survey, sudden bursts of noise are the most irritating in the workplace, with the most annoying being: colleagues’ telephone conversations (74 per cent); personal conversations (65 per cent); sudden laughter (62 per cent); telephone ring tones (58 per cent); doors slamming (56 per cent); eating noises (55 per cent); business conversations (53 per cent); coughing/sneezing/sniffing (50 per cent) and music (40 per cent).

It is therefore no surprise that half of the workforce (46 per cent) admit to having worn headphones in the office to block out or reduce noise distractions.