Is your workplace prepared for noise pollution?

‘The stress of these noises throughout the day can even disrupt our sleep that evening’

Is your workplace prepared for noise pollution?

Noise is extremely subjective and is linked with the emotional part of our brain - which means noise can affect people in a variety of ways, according to Professor and Director of Audiology at Macquarie University, Catherine McMahon.

A noise may be distracting, irritating or stressful to one, but not so much for another, added McMahon.

“While we recognise the acute impacts that these noises have, for example, we get irritated or annoyed, we have only begun to uncover longer terms effects that this sustained stress can have on our health.”

The latest Sony Sound Report revealed that 80% of Australians encounter unwanted noise in the workplace (otherwise known as noise pollution) and when it comes to the most irritating noises the biggest complaints from Aussies are the sounds of their own co-workers.

It found that noise pollution in the workplace is making Aussies irritable or annoyed (44%) and even contributes to their daily stress (31%).

Employees also feel that unwanted noises make it harder to concentrate and stay focused (54%), but less than half (42%) think this noise pollution has a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.

Considering the implications that noise pollution actually has on workers, companies and employees alike strive to create the best working environment to reduce this stress, increase productivity and inspire creativity.

“The stress of these noises throughout the day can even disrupt our sleep that evening, which will

increase our tiredness and dampen productivity the following day. Other studies have found that it can eventually have an impact on the cardiovascular system and is associated with an increased incidence of arterial hypertension, myocardial infarction, heart failure, and stroke.”

Due to the increasing need for flexible working and collaborative environments, far more Australians are now working in an open-plan office (30%), than an office which is not open plan (13%). Other environments include retail or hospitality (15%), education institutes (9%) and healthcare facilities (8%).

Workers talking or laughing too loudly is a common complaint and irritation amongst Aussies, especially those working in open-plan offices (51% open-plan versus 33% overall average). Other common forms of noise pollution for Aussie workers include telephones ringing and not being answered (32%), colleagues sneezing, coughing or sniffing (28%), nearby construction (27%) and colleagues talking on their phones (21%). Australian workers are less likely to be bothered by the sounds of nearby traffic (17%).

According to McMahon, open-plan offices are often considered as environments that encouragecreativity, employee interaction and collaboration.

This may be true in some instances and while these types of offices are also a cost effective alternative, they are full of distractions which can decrease our productivity.”

“Businesses and employers need to build a culture and put solutions in place to minimise the distracting noises and make it a productive working environment,” said McMahon.

“Most of us think it’s harmless to stop by someone’s desk for a quick chat, but this can impact productivity instantly and make it harder for them to recall any important information. While it may seem excessive at first, why not book in meetings with your colleagues in a separate breakout space or email them to suggest a time to catch up?”

The solution to get away from unwanted noise in many cases is just to try and ignore it (56%). A quarter will listen to music on their headphones to drown out the sounds (26%) and others (23%) will move to a different room or area to escape the noise.

READ MORE: Do open plan offices really work?

McMahon added that if it’s possible employers should take into account the office acoustic design.

“Or if the space cannot be altered noise cancelling headphones are an alternative that can help reduce the impact of distracting noise. Overall, noise and stress are cumulative and everyone needs a break from noise. Taking regular lunch breaks or going for a walk during the day is a great strategy for your physical and mental health.”

Sony Australia’s Deputy General Manager, Consumer Sales & Marketing, Abel Makhraz said most of those working in an open-plan office (57%) are convinced that noise cancelling headphones will increase their productivity at work.

“This is why we are excited to launch the Sony WF-1000X M3 headphones to consumers and unveil the findings from our latest Sony Sound Report. At Sony, we continue to address the problem of noise pollution with our innovative and industry-leading noise cancelling technology.”

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