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New research indicates shift in attitudes towards hybrid work, employers seek more office time

New research indicates a shift in attitudes towards hybrid work as employers seek more onsite office time.

The once-harmonious hum of productivity in the modern workplace is gradually being drowned out by a cacophony of noises.

The everyday symphony of workplace sounds, from ringing phones to chattering coworkers, clattering keyboards to buzzing air conditioning units, maybe both distracting and damaging to employee focus and performance. The impacts of workplace noise have evolved into a major matter, affecting not only productivity but also general employee well-being.

Understanding and minimising the effects of workplace noise is becoming increasingly important as organisations embrace new working methods such as hybrid arrangements.

In that light, Oscar Acoustics, the UK’s specialist in architectural acoustic finishes, revealed continual exposure to increasing noise levels is steadily reducing productivity levels in the financial and professional services industries.

The findings, which are part of a nationwide study of 1,500 office workers, looked at the impact of workplace noise and revealed that 81 per cent of workers report a significant decline in productivity as a result of excessive noise levels in the workplace.

Constant distractions in the workplace are becoming a deterrent for employees. The study pointed out that more than a quarter (27%) cited excessive noise as one of their major annoyances. The study also revealed that nearly three-quarters of employees (74%) believe they work more effectively at home than in the workplace.

This comes amid ongoing debates surrounding hybrid working arrangements. According to Monster research, half of employers are satisfied with flexible working alternatives, although one-third have changed their position since a year ago.

Digging deeper into the reasons behind decreased productivity, the study revealed that 52 per cent of employees struggle to concentrate due to noise, leading more than a third (37%) to deliver low-quality work as a result.

When asked explicitly about noise levels in the office, three out of ten employees admit to working from home to escape a disruptive environment, while 20 per cent have felt obliged to shift to a separate desk away from their coworkers.

Furthermore, excessive noise has been shown in studies to have a negative impact on workers’ health. According to the report, 11 per cent of UK office workers say their working conditions have harmed their hearing. Over one-fifth have difficulty sleeping, and nearly one-fourth report needing to work outside of their contracted hours to compensate for decreased productivity.

The study also highlights how ongoing exposure to disruptive noise can escalate tensions among colleagues. The study revealed that seven per cent of employees admitted to using physical aggression and a quarter confessed to snapping at coworkers. The age group most affected by workplace noise is 34 to 44 years old, with six per cent stating that noise drove them to quit their jobs.

When they were asked about the efforts their employers made to address noise levels, only 22 per cent of respondents believe the issue is being handled seriously, and roughly a fifth reported that behavioural training methods had been used to foster a quieter workplace environment.

Ben Hancock, Managing Director at Oscar Acoustics, in response to the survey, said employers are facing real challenges navigating hybrid working expectations from employees. As discussions intensify around increasing office days, he emphasised that acoustic performance in office design is often overlooked, negatively impacting staff workflow. Hancock urged businesses to prioritise creating a workplace atmosphere that facilitates employee productivity.

Despite noise appearing as a minor annoyance, Hancock stressed its significant impact on productivity and staff wellbeing. He warned that failing to address the issue seriously could harm businesses’ ability to attract and retain talent, affecting bottom lines, and, in severe cases, endangering worker health.

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