People are becoming more sensitive to noise in the post-pandemic workplace.
In a poll conducted by HR Magazine, 52% of office workers say they are concerned that noise levels in the office will make them less productive.
Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds fear getting fed up if their noisy coworkers break their concentration, and 42% worry that they’ll slip into “noise rage” if colleagues become too loud.
Some are even threatening to quit if their coworkers would not shut up.
Jennifer Moss, a journalist and author of the book The Burnout Epidemic, explained that everyone is “revved up really high” right now.
“There’s mental fatigue that happens by hearing all these noises all day long. It can actually increase the likelihood of anxiety and depression over time.”
The real consequences of noise
According to manufacturing company Steelcase, people lose an estimated 86 minutes of productivity daily because of noise distractions.
The University of California at Irvine added that it takes another 23 minutes to get back on task after an interruption.
Health professionals have also connected too much noise to heart problems, loss of sleep, high blood pressure, higher levels of stress, and depression.
Noise also feels different in the post-pandemic work world. It is becoming hard for some people to adjust their ears back to a noisy environment after being locked up in their home offices for years.
Steps to tone down the noise
To improve acoustics, companies are installing modular phone booths for quiet work and building huddle rooms with soundproofing that allows everyone in virtual meetings—both at home and in the office—to hear more clearly.
Companies are also turning to “soundscaping,” which includes playing a wide range of nature sounds to silence noisy conversations or a surge in activity.
Moodsonic, a soundscaping company in the United Kingdom (UK), even has software that uses sensors to monitor areas of offices and automatically adjusts the sounds.
There is also a 650-square-foot office space in the heart of Manhattan called PinDrop that built a “floating room within a room” — complete with isolation blocks, insulation, springs, and layers of sheetrock — to guarantee a quiet and peaceful workplace.
Or, we could all just learn to respect our colleagues by being quiet during work hours.
“The absolute superpower skill right now for leaders is empathy,” said Moss.
“For some, going back to the office is really nerve-wracking. It’s about giving people a lot of room and space and compassion.”