Noisy coworkers are stopping employees from returning to the office

Chatterbox colleagues are creating so much stress for coworkers that some are choosing to work from home, shows research.

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Helena Young
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For the past year, companies have been struggling with the challenge of introducing a hybrid working policy that allows for at-home working without leading to wasted office space.

Plenty have tried to entice team members back in by offering free lunches or other employee perks. But while business leaders search for ways to create a fun working environment, new research indicates that their staff might just prefer a bit of peace and quiet.

Data collected by Oscar Acoustics has found that 75% of employees think raucous workspaces are preventing them from concentrating on their job.

Talkative team members might even be causing staff to avoid the office altogether. A quarter of UK workers, aged between 18 and 50, expressed serious concern about returning to the office due to excessive noise.

While 53% of bosses consider productive workspaces important to their organisation, it seems they are failing to create workplace harmony. The report is now warning managers about the importance of crafting a respectful working environment to help employees meet targets and avoid conflict with coworkers.

Figures show office banter is OUT

According to employees, the most annoying sound to listen to while working is office banter. Four in ten people said they found listening to this distracting.

While platforms Zoom and Microsoft Teams were heralded as the tech-heroes of the pandemic, they are now causing department dissent. A third of employees admitted to struggling to concentrate as a result of nearby video conferencing.

The data could also spell the end for the classic desk lunch, with a fifth of workers divulging that they find ‘al desko’ dining off putting.

Rounding off the list for most-annoying sounds to hear at the desk were humming, singing and other bodily sounds like breathing and scratching.

Hybrid working – hear to stay?

One reason for the issue could be a result of the shift to post-COVID working culture. After nearly two and half years of working from home, office workers across the country have become familiar with home comforts, with little in the way of noise disturbances.

Compared to the tranquility of a home study, Oscar Acoustics’ research shows office workers are struggling to deal with the disparate working environments generated by hybrid working. In some cases, this has given rise to a disruptive organisational culture.

Shockingly, the report found that 8% of managers have had to fire members of staff due to them being too noisy. On top of this, 14% of employers admitted to relocating away from main areas of work to avoid a loud coworker.

Making sound sense

Ben Hancock, managing director at Oscar Acoustics says, “workers have returned to offices only to realise that their work environments aren’t up to scratch.

“Noise at work has always been a source of contention but now, after so much time spent at home, people are finding it intolerable. We should see it as a wakeup call for major change.”

Many business owners have switched to a hybrid working model as a cost saving measure. However, this potential benefit could be outweighed by the heightened threat of poor team working and a stressed out workforce – both of which would have a negative impact on business’ bottom lines.

Alluding to the current hiring crisis caused by the current labour shortages, Hancock advises that companies invest in smart office design, such as an efficient coworking space, to keep staff motivated and working together cohesively.

“If businesses are to come back stronger than ever, then it starts with creating the right environment for staff to thrive and feel at ease”, Hancock adds.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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