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Shhh, I’m Trying to Be Productive Over Here


Someone stressed at work
Image: WavebreakmediaMicro -
Although remote work has its auditory disruptions like barking dogs or e-commerce deliveries, employees who are heading back to the office will most likely be reintroduced to pre-pandemic workplace annoyances: coworkers talking over workstations, the hustle and bustle associated with changing meeting rooms, and the worst of all, coworkers chewing their lunch too loudly.
While these concerns might seem trivial at first glance, noise concerns are becoming a major issue for those employees heading back into the office, as device manufacturer Poly reported in its Evolution of the Workplace report. Though employees are looking forward to more face-to-face interactions, Poly found that 56% of 7,261 workers from across the globe expressed concerns that they’ll be less productive due to the noise levels in the office, and 42% worry that they’ll be prone to “noise rage” directed toward loud colleagues.
“Noise is a legitimate concern for many, particularly for those younger workers that are new to the workforce or a new environment. To address the rise of 'noise rage', organizations need to provide employees with the right technology,” Paul Clark, senior VP of EMEA sales for Poly, said.
Conveniently, Poly provides a range of devices with noise-cancellation capabilities, including the Voyager Focus 2 headset and the Poly Studio P15 video bar. Of course, Poly isn’t alone, and device manufacturers like Logitech, Neat, Yealink, and many others offer headsets, webcams, video bars, or other devices with built-in noise suppression or filtering. In addition to the hardware, each major cloud video meeting provider from Microsoft, Zoom, Cisco, and others provide noise suppression and reduction capabilities with their software.
Though the above technology can certainly help manage noise within video meeting settings or from personal workstations, the noise issue extends beyond conference rooms and desks. For instance, in an open office setting, you might have two or more groups working in an open space, effectively creating noise distractions for each other. Employees who have become accustomed to their quiet work-from-home sanctuary might find the office filled with “new” distraction.
So, in addition to having the technology to reduce noise, workplace leaders will also have to devote both time and resources to ensuring spaces are equipped to keep noise in check. A number of resources exist online that discuss ways to reduce noise in the open office. For instance, in this Business Journal article, the author highlighted how sound-absorbent wall panels, semi-private or private work enclaves (like Room’s flexible workspace booths), and other office fixtures help mitigate noise concerns.
Just as addressing noise concerns in the open office isn’t left to a single element or device, it's not the job of a single department to keep noise in check. While IT can provide technology know-how on what devices work best to mitigate noises, HR and facility professionals also have their roles to play. Facility professionals will have to ensure open workspaces have the proper soundproofing and acoustics to ensure people inside and outside the space aren't disrupted. Also, HR professionals will need to find a way to track employee wellness and productivity once employees are back in the office.
With HR, IT, and facility departments coming together to address noise concerns, employees can expect their return to the office to be as smooth — and as quiet — as possible.