After a year of working from home, many employees who are now back in the office have reported difficulties with adapting to the situation. Along with a lengthy commute and the associated expense, unacceptable noise levels in the office are top of the list.
As a result, companies have noticed the early indication of a downward trend in productivity and concerning reports of reduced employee well-being. Employers will need to invest in workspaces to ensure the safety, comfort and productivity of their workforces or face a concerning decline in productivity over the next year.
New concerns for employees returning to work
A recent study surveyed 2000 adults and was conducted by the Institute of Facilities Management. The survey was sent to employees who had been working from home and had now begun their return to the workplace.
A quarter of those surveyed worryingly said they had not seen any changes to the office and facilities at all upon their return. This includes no changes to the layout of their workspaces and no attempts made to reduce sound or provide quiet work zones. Of most concern this also means they saw no attempts at all in the workplace to help them meet social distancing guidelines.
A third of all respondents reported that they are now unhappy to share a bank of desks with co-workers.
These results prompted the Chief Executive of the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, Linda Hausmanis to say: “As we move into new modes of working, businesses must adapt physical spaces, working culture and supporting technologies.”
Many reported that they felt less productive in the office and struggled to cope with the myriad of distractions they now faced.
They cited the main issues as:
1. Poor internet connections
2. Overheard and distracting conversations
3. A lack of facilities to hold video conferencing meetings
From the results of the report, it is evident that younger workers are struggling more with the return to shared offices. What can businesses do to support their staff?
Can the shared office survive?
Alongside the Institute of Facilities Management report another recent poll from YouGov found that a majority of workers (57%) would like to continue to work from home for part of the week.
Many companies have adopted an official hybrid work model that enables staff to work from home for several days per week and asks them to return to the office for key meetings. The likes of Global giant companies like Apple and Google both have CEOs who cite collaboration and a lack of creativity as the main casualties during the pandemic and from September 2021 a return to the shared workplace is their preferred outcome for all staff.
In their staff communication Apple referred to a hum of activity, creativity, and collaboration that a return to the office will bring. But how can creativity happen if staff are feeling unhappy and not safe in the office? Companies now have an opportunity to create specific spaces for collaboration and discussion whilst ensuring privacy, safety, and security for all employees.
When the office feels too noisy to work in!
As the research above shows though, the creative utopia CEOs dream of may not just happen as might have been the case in the past for many businesses. The opportunities for creativity and collaboration will need to be supported with workspaces that make employees feel comfortable.
Leaving the peace and quiet and freer timetables of working from home, staff report feeling frustrated and resent the constant distractions they experience in the noisy office.
A recent article in WIRED magazine interviewed a woman who said she was astonished at just how loud her open plan office was after 16 months of working from home. The constant interruption and overheard private conversations led her to feel uncomfortable and longing to return home.
Others spoke of the now almost impossible task of holding a video conferencing meeting at their desks when they are surrounded by distracting noise. Added to this they reported that they are unnerved by the potential for their own conversations to be overheard during the calls. This has led staff to book meeting rooms in which to hold their online meetings!
The desire for privacy only met by working in a meeting room just isn’t sustainable in most shared workplaces.
Constant interruptions + noise = stress
Research shows that these feelings of frustration in a noisy office directly impacts mental health that in time can lead to constant stress. Stress in turn impacts productivity and so too does the constant interruptions those returning to the office in 2021 report.
The bad news is humans don’t even have to physically keep stopping work for our performance to be impaired. Just the mental capacity and actions our brain must perform to block out sound distractions leads to a decline in performance. Even simple tasks become difficult to conduct when dealing with acoustically varying sounds – such as overheard conversations, traffic noise and music.
What is the solution?
Simple additions to the working day such as noise cancelling headphones can help. Or reducing the number of occupants in any one space to reduce the noise levels and distractions. With most offices however this isn’t practical and it’s also not a long-term solution to creating a quiet work environment, relying on individuals to put on headphones.
With these issues in mind ezoBord has created a range of desk dividers and screens that reduce background noise and improve speech intelligibility to help teams work without distractions.
ezoBord acoustic desk dividers work with almost all desks regardless of their dimensions and give a sense of privacy and security that people returning to work crave.
The newest concept from ezoBord – “Hoody” is a mobile sound reducing workstation and desk dividing system that ensures a sense of privacy and enclosure. It can be used as a single workstation, or there are options for banks of desks.
You can find out more information and download technical specifications for Hoody here.
ezoBord UK Limited
Unit 20 Westwood Business Park Margate, Kent CT9 4JJ
Sales: Nigel Webster
Operations: Andy Knight