Noise and Wellbeing at Work Survey


Survey Introduction

Before we discuss whether noise impacts our wellbeing at work with the ‘Noise and Wellbeing at Work’ survey results, we must first define what is ‘noise’ and
what ‘workplace wellbeing’ is.

Noise is unwanted sound judged to be unpleasant, loud, or disruptive to hearing. Noise perception is subjective. Factors such as characteristics,
duration and time of occurrence may affect one’s subjective impression of the noise.

Workplace Wellbeing relates to all aspects of working life, from the quality and safety of the physical environment, to how workers feel about their work, their working environment, the climate at work and work organization. The aim of measures for workplace well-being is to complement OSH measures to make
sure workers are safe, healthy, satisfied and engaged at work. In this white paper, we refer to workplace wellbeing that is affected by ‘noise’.

With this in mind, the Remark Group, in collaboration with Dr Nigel Oseland a workplace strategist and environmental psychologist, have created this report from their Noise & Wellbeing at Work survey, with over 1,000 UK respondents, to determine whether or not noise does indeed impact a person’s workplace wellbeing and in turn their productivity and overall happiness.

Dr Nigel Oseland

“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. Remark’s research and services contribute to providing the solution.”

Noise and Productivity

Productivity levels across the UK have fallen to a dramatic low, as 38%* of office workers call on their employers to do more, with a further 60%* believing their business has productivity issues. Distractions contribute a huge amount to lack of productivity.

In the ‘Noise and Wellbeing at Work’ survey it was found that, shrieks of laughter and conversations of variable volume are reported as the most distracting and being listened to whilst on the phone is an annoyance. Interestingly it was sudden bursts of noise that employees found most distracting at work compared to a constant background buzz.

One in four UK office workers say that their working environment is not conducive to productive working with over a third of people saying that their workplace would benefit from a private area for employees to use. However, having a space where staff can openly collaborate and discuss ideas is also
important, finding a balance between having a collaborative space and a more private space is crucial.

Over half of UK office workers say that their workplace does not encourage productivity with sixty-five percent stating that their workplace impacts on their
motivation to work. For productivity levels in the UK to increase again we seriously need to think about the working office environment and what employers can do to ensure that their employees are at their most productive.

Survey Conclusion

We can clearly see from the results of ‘Noise and Wellbeing at Work’ that noise, whether it be speech or otherwise, has subtle but profound effects on workers psychologically, behaviourally and cognitively.

Loud sounds and prolonged exposure to certain types of noise can trigger physiologic stress responses in our bodies whilst laughter, conversations of
variable volume and sudden noises are all claimed to be major forms of distraction.

There are solutions that can increase the acoustic comfort of the building without changing the architectural design.

Sound masking and treatment is an effective method that, when installed correctly, has the potential to bolster acoustical privacy and reduce distracting noises which in turn helps to improve the overall office comfort.

Sound masking systems are designed to deliver an unobtrusive background noise which imitates airflow, masking background noises in the office environment and thereby reducing distractions, increasing productivity and improving employees sense of wellbeing at work.

Sound masking in its raw sound, can create a relaxing atmosphere that promotes the overall well-being of office workers. It also has the ability to intertwine with natural sounds, creating a completely immersive and calming
environment where employees can focus and collaborate naturally.

Increased productivity, reduced distractions and an increase in office comfort are just some of the documented effects of sound masking.

Dr Nigel Oseland

“Whether we are introverted or extroverted will affect how we interpret noise. Extroverts are more tolerant of noise whereas introverts prefer more calming environments. So, when we have different types of people in the same environment, this can be tricky as they have different levels of preferred noise. That doesn’t mean we can’t help them in the workplace, we can introduce Sound Masking, sound absorption or different spaces where they can do their work from; private areas or more collaborative open spaces.”

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