How does workplace noise impact productivity, and what can mitigate it? See what this Interface study found

by Brianna Crandall — May 10, 2019 — Global commercial flooring company Interface just released the results of What’s That Sound?, a workplace study uncovering how noise and acoustics impact employees in business environments. The survey, conducted in partnership with Radius Global Market Research, reveals noise negatively impacts a majority (69%) of global employees’ concentration levels, productivity and creativity.

More than 2,000 adult workers in the US, UK and Australia participated in the study, intended to inform employers on the importance of acoustical solutions for the current and future workforce.

In addition to the negative impacts of noise on an employee’s well-being, the study highlights the perceived negligence of employers in finding solutions for noise in the workplace.  Across the US, UK and Australia, 44% of those surveyed indicate their company does nothing to address noise, leaving employees to solve the problem themselves.

Potentially concerning for employers, 16% of those surveyed choose to work remotely due to unsolved noise problems, revealing the need for more touchdown areas, focus rooms and designated quiet areas in which employees can find retreat.

Is the open office trend to blame?

Nearly one-third (32%) of employees surveyed report working at an assigned desk or workstation in an open environment. However, only 31% of all respondents indicate that employers provide private spaces for phone calls or conversations.

While doing away with collaboration is not the remedy to noise concerns, structuring environments with the right materials could make a difference, points out Interface.

The majority of employees who work at offices with wood, ceramic tile and concrete flooring say it is noisy at their offices (54%) compared to those who work in offices with carpeting (45%).

Only 31% report their workplace uses carpeting or area rugs to mitigate noise.

Noise offenders

The survey respondents work in a variety of settings, from assigned desks in open environments to shared offices and even cubicles.

The top distractions across the responding countries include:

  • Conversations among employees (71%)
  • Phone conversations (67%)
  • Phones ringing (62%)
  • The sound of people walking around (54%)

A future threat

The research indicates noisy offices cause increased levels of stress and anxiety, with 50% revealing noise levels would impact their decision to accept a job.

Chip DeGrace, VP of Workplace Applications, Interface, explained:

When creating workspaces, designers are often asked to apply planning methodologies or specify products based on design trends, rather than the specific operating needs of a business. But the best designs are those rooted in solutions specific to company culture, environmental aspirations and respect for individual user choice. This study confirms the importance of creating a productive workspace that accommodates a variety of work styles and preferences.

For the full results and methodology associated with the What’s That Sound? workplace acoustics study, as well as an accompanying video and Interface suggestions on managing noise with flooring, visit the company’s acoustics webpage.