20 - Nov - 2019

The Oscar Acoustics workplace noise survey is out!

Neglectful employers, violent Londoners and raucous offices. 
A survey of 2,000 adults across the country exploring the shocking effects of noise at work.


It’ll be no surprise to anyone that here at Oscar Acoustics we’ve always been passionate about noise.  However, it’s understandable that for many this issue can be hard to quantify and can sometimes feel even harder to tackle.  It was because of this that we conducted research to find out how noise was affecting people across the UK.  We surveyed 2,000 working-age adults across the country to find out more about the sonic landscape of their workplace and discovered some shocking results. 


Overall

The survey shows that noise is affecting most of us at work, with 59% of respondents reporting that they work in a loud environment.  Despite this only 22% of us seem to think that our workplace is well designed to help mitigate noise levels.  This is bad news for both employers and employees as excessive noise has more of an impact on our behaviour than you might think.  Half of our survey participants said that their productivity has been ruined and 44% said they can’t concentrate.

This sounds bad for bosses who want a motivated and efficient workforce, however the effects go even deeper.  One-fifth of UK workers say they’ve had a breakdown in relationship with their co-workers and 29% have snapped at their colleagues.  One in ten have even lost their temper with their boss!  Hardly conducive to a happy workplace.

So what are companies doing to stop this breakdown in harmonious staff relations?  Unfortunately very little.  54% in our survey said their employer has done nothing and 42% don’t even take the issue seriously.

(Pictured right SonaSpray K-13 Special acoustic ceiling spray was applied to the pitched soffit in white in YRM Architects Studio in London.  The architects and staff of YRM now have a quiet, comfortable and welcoming environment in which to work after the application of our SonaSpray K-13 Special.)

Workplace noise


Regional

Things get even more interesting when we delve deeper into the data and look at the different breakdowns.  Let’s start by comparing the different parts of the country.  The region of the UK with the biggest noise problem by far is London.  37% of Londoners say they work in a very noisy environment compared with a national average of 18%.  In fact, noise is such an issue in the capital, that half of people who live there know someone who has suffered hearing damage while at work.

This probably explains why Londoners also have the most extreme reactions to noise.  Over three-quarters have taken action over excessive noise, from working from home, snapping at colleagues and even quitting, more likely than anyone else in the country.  What’s especially alarming is 28% have actually resorted to physical violence because their workplace was too noisy!  Maybe try and keep your voice down next time you’re in London.


Londons problem with noise

Noise in the capital runs rampant

  • Alarmingly 28% of Londoners have resorted to physical violence due to excessive noise
  • 31% have snapped at their boss because of noise
  • 60% say noise is ruining their productivity
  • Over half know someone who has suffered hearing damage as a result of their workplace

Exploring a range of different sectors, the research reveals some surprising and concerning effects of noise pollution, a worrying lack of action taken against it and a dearth of knowledge about the associated health issues.  Noise pollution is pervasive across the capital, with two-thirds of Londoners saying they work in a loud environment.

The effects

More worryingly for businesses in the capital, noise is severely affecting productivity levels with 60% saying it has negatively impacted on their ability to do their job.  The effects of poor acoustics are extensive and can have a negative impact on people’s behaviour too which you can see from the below results from one of the survey questions:

Have you ever done the following as a result of excessive noise in your workplace?

  • Worn headphones 44%
  • Snapped at a co-worker 39%
  • Asked to move to another desk 38%
  • Worked early/worked late to have quiet time 38%
  • Made a formal complaint 34%
  • Quit 34%
  • Worked from home 34%
  • Snapped at a superior 31%
  • Left passive aggressive notes 31%
  • Fired someone for being too noisy 29%
  • Physical violence 28%
  • None of the above 24%

The most common way people avoid the racket at work is wearing headphones (44%).  However 46% of participants in the survey say they’ve known someone to ignore their boss and half have missed phone calls due to headphones usage.
The consequences

Excessive noise is proven to increase the risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes.  Not only this, but half of people in the capital know someone who has had hearing damage as a result of their workplace.

“We’ve always known about the dangers of noise pollution, however for many it’s just not visible enough.  Hopefully these findings will quantify the threat for people and drive home the importance, showing that it’s becoming harder and harder to avoid excessive and sometimes dangerous noise at work.  London has become a ‘sonic battleground’.

“Companies need to act now if they want to protect their business interests, and more importantly workers’ health and wellbeing.  If threats to profit margins don’t motivate companies to take action, perhaps employee safety will.  Fortunately it’s never too late, as workplaces can be easily retrofitted with acoustic decorative finishes for reverberation control without impacting the space’s design.”

Ben Hancock
Managing Director of Oscar Acoustics


So, what can be done?

We’ve always known about the dangers of noise pollution, and hopefully this research will drive it home to others too.  It highlights that it’s increasingly hard to avoid excessive noise in any workplace as the UK has become a ‘sonic battleground’.  It also shows that an unhappy workforce due to poor acoustics can be very unproductive.  It can lead to employees becoming distracted, arguing with colleagues, missing important calls and taking more sick days, all of which could have a seriously negative affect on business.

Luckily for employers there are tools and building certification systems available that architects and contractors can work towards when designing new workplaces.  The International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI™) is leading the global movement to transform buildings.  The WELL Building Standard is a blueprint for creating better spaces and empowering employers to transform their workplaces and put the health of their employees first.  

Workplace noise solutions

Investec offices treated with SonaSpray K-13 mid grey.  Credit to BW Workplace Experts.

As a result, there is a growing trend in the architect and interior design community to create workspaces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also create a welcoming experience for future inhabitants.

Reducing workplace noise for employee wellbeing and productivity

At Oscar Acoustics we serve Great Britain providing architectural acoustic finishes for buildings across many different sectors and industries, advocating the health and wellbeing of all those who enter them.  With our extensive range of recycled, seamless, acoustic, decorative finishes we enable designers to create beautiful, calm and inviting, modern spaces that sound as good as they look.

From textured acoustic spray to exceptionally smooth acoustic plaster, we can ensure that we have the right acoustic finish to compliment your project whether it be for a fit-out, refurbishment or new build. 

Contact us

For more information regarding our acoustic finishes for workplace noise you can call us direct on 01474 854902 or fill in our contact us form and a member of our friendly team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Speak to an acoustic expert

ISG
KIER Group
Tate
Microsoft
Twickenham Stadium
Harvey Nichols
Grand Designs
Jaguar Land Rover
RICS
Mercedes AMG
Hilton Hotels and Resorts
Willmott Dixon
Network Rail
Rolls Royce