Interface study reveals impacts of noise on workforce productivity

The survey, conducted in partnership with Radius Global Market Research, revealed noise negatively impacts a majority of global employees’ concentration levels, productivity and creativity.

Atlanta– Interface released the results of “What’s That Sound?” a workplace study uncovering how sound and acoustics impact employees in business environments. The survey, conducted in partnership with Radius Global Market Research, revealed noise negatively impacts a majority (69%) of global employees’ concentration levels, productivity and creativity.

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

say something, do nothing

In addition to the negative impacts of noise on an employee’s wellbeing, the study highlights the perceived negligence of employers in finding solutions for noise in the workplace. Across the U.S., U.K. 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 for employees to retreat.

is the open office trend to blame?

Nearly one-third (32%) of employees surveyed report working at an assigned desk or work station 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.

  • 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 globe 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.

“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,” said Chip DeGrace, VP of workplace ppplications, Interface. “This study confirms the importance of creating a productive workspace that accommodates a variety of work styles and preferences.”