Author Bio ▼

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.
March 14, 2019

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Noisey offices causing headaches for workers

Noisey offices are having a negative impact on staff wellbeing and productivity, according to a new survey.

headacheA survey of 1,000 UK-based office workers for business solutions company The Remark Group found almost two thirds (65%) admitted they could not complete work on time because of noise in their workplace.

Nearly half (44%) said that noise had a negative impact on their overall wellbeing, while more than 40% admitted reporting that noise at work caused them to feel stressed.

The Remark Group’s Noise and Wellbeing at Work 2019 also found 52% of people said they are interrupted by noise distractions more than five times in a working day, with 17% stating that they are interrupted by noise 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.

Around two thirds (64%) of workers surveyed said they often suffer from a lack of privacy at work, with over half (51%) stating that they have overheard confidential or sensitive information being discussed in the office and nearly 70% have overheard a colleague being upset or distressed.

More than half of employee’s state that they are reluctant to speak about a confidential, business-sensitive or personal issue at work, for fear of being overheard, with 41% feeling anxious about being overheard and 45% reporting they feel anxious about hearing something they should not.


Dr Nigel Oseland, an honorary senior lecturer at UCL’s Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering said the report shows that noise is the biggest cause of dissatisfaction in the modern workplace, along with an associated loss of performance, increases stress and poorer wellbeing.

“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 focussed work, whilst maintaining collaborative and creative environments,” said Dr Oseland.

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

And almost that half of workers (46%) admitted to having worn headphones in the office to block out or reduce noise distractions.

“Roughly half of the UK work in open plan office environments, a system which was initially designed to encourage communication and collaboration between employees,” said the Remark Group’s Penelope Harrall.

“Yet, with this design comes an increase in annoying and distracting workplace sounds, such as telephone ringtones, sudden bursts of laughter and phone conversations. These are proven to be distracting and have profound effects on employee stress levels and wellbeing, not to mention the impact they have on loss in productivity.”

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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