ResearchAcoustics: Survey reveals 60% of office workers ‘unable to concentrate’

A new study demonstrates poor acoustic design is hampering UK productivity.
Joanna Watchman2 years ago6 min

A British specialist in architectural acoustic finishes, has released findings from its latest study into workplace noise, with 2,000 office workers polled. Worryingly, noisy offices are lowering productivity, with 60% of office workers unable to concentrate and delivering poor quality work due to loud workspaces.

Oscar Acoustics’s survey results show workplace challenges surrounding low productivity, problems filling job vacancies and a four-day week for the same pay are in the UK headlines. The company says this highlights that bosses need to ‘prioritise employee wellbeing and efficiency’.

The 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.

Sounds that annoy!

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%).

Permanent health damage

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.

Productivity impact

Interestingly, one in three office workers reported that they’re either late with projects, or turning in poorer quality work due to the noise. According to Oscar Acoustics, a quick win, which can make a significant difference, is addressing workplace noise levels.

“Employers are facing real challenges around staffing and needing to achieve the same results with fewer people,” says Ben Hancock from Oscar Acoustics.  “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.

Survey methodology

The study surveyed 2,000 UK office workers in July 2022, a third reported working in the office full time, with around half working either three or two days in the office. Only 5% worked full time at home. Respondents came from organizations of all sizes, with half from larger employers and the remainder from SMEs.  The survey was conducted by OnePoll.

Joanna Watchman

Joanna Watchman is our founder. She is a communications consultant specialising in the built environment and technology sectors. Having spent years writing, thinking and talking about the way buildings could (and should) be more in tune with the people that use them, Joanna decided to create Work in Mind. She is on a mission to bring together all those who believe in smarter, more connected human-centric buildings.

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