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32% of people use headphones to block out distraction.

(source: Study from Oxford Economics Study, 2018)

Open Plan Office

The open plan office has been the favourite layout for designers and companies for some time. Not only does it make sense for space planning, it encourages teamwork and collaboration. However, this can be to the detriment of noise levels. The explosion in the use of video conferencing has created a new dimension to this challenge. Having a Zoom call in an open plan office is never a popular decision.

Research suggests that noise and distraction impacts wellness, productivity and even financial performance, yet executives aren’t doing enough to address the problem.

In the Oxford Economics study, 63 percent of employees said they lack quiet space for focused work, which has a negative effect on their productivity, satisfaction and wellbeing. Indeed, employees in the noisiest office environments are more likely to say they may leave their job in the next six months.

96 percent of executives see employee productivity as critical to their financial performance, yet just 40 percent understood the link between noise, distraction and productivity.

Open plan office 3D model

The Impacts of Excessive Noise

We now know that excessive noise can create mental fatigue and distraction. A noisy workplace puts stress on employees who struggle to concentrate and who must find ways to work around the problem. Many people wear headphones to help block out the background noise, but they are often seen as a barrier to creative thinking and collaboration. The mental state of employees may progress from distraction and an inability to concentrate, to irritation, poor job performance, frayed tempers or even anger towards colleagues. And there is a financial impact as well.

Excessive noise can also have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system and long- and short-term memory. In the U.S, the The EPA cites “stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, speech interference, hearing loss, sleep disruption and lost productivity” as the possible health results of noise pollution. Workers who are aware of these risks may well feel more anxious in a noisy workplace.


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