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How Does Noise Affect Workplace Productivity?

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Excessive and continuous sound is disturbing for the human ear. Psychologist Nick Perham reports that noise in the office can impair a worker’s ability to recall information and perform basic math. Studies have found that it can cause oxidative stress and cognitive impairment in the brain which may lead to a neurodegenerative disorder. In short, it affects mental activities and lowers the ability to tackle slightly puzzling tasks. Workers at wind farms, petroleum factories, automobile construction units and oil rigs are at high risk of hearing loss.

The noise monitoring market size was valued at $684.53 million in 2021 and is projected to reach $980.30 million by 2030 growing at a CAGR of 4.41% in the same period. This is necessary since exposure to even low-intensity office-like noises for 3 hours can spike the production of epinephrine or adrenaline which is released when under shock. Learn about how noise has a severe impact on workplace ambience. 

Downturn in productivity 

Noise can annoy and perturb ‘reasonable persons’ with normal sensitivities and injure comfort, repose, hearing, health, peace and safety. There are many different kinds like ambient noise level, cyclically varying noise and continuous noise that may be excessively tiring and reduce work motivation. They also force the body to create unnecessary responses like a rise in heart rate and blood pressure. This kills your ability to work with full concentration and damages accuracy with intense bursts of distractions. Studies have proven that workers can be up to 66% less productive when exposed to a single nearby conversation. 

Impairs memory

There can be a decline in spatial learning/memory after three months of noise exposure. In fact, hippocampal neurogenesis is another common noise-related complexity which arises from issues in the central nervous system. This may ultimately lead to emotional stress. Auditory stimulation is impaired to a great extent that can further have a negative influence on attention span and recognition in the workplace. 

Multitasking becomes difficult 

Habitual multitaskers are less likely to get affected by environmental factors. Yet it becomes harder to get their head back at their job once they are distracted. They may start slumping or show attributes of laziness or low efficiency.

Here are a few kinds of noises that are common in most kinds of workplaces: 

  • Simulated office noise can lead to greater speech intelligibility and is quite detrimental to tasks that require a sharp mindset. 
  • Intermittent speech is a common sound in a corporate setting. This will include a colleague tapping their foot incessantly or continuous phone ringing. 
  • Unintelligible chatter is another form where multiple conversations and sounds are blended into one to create a single continuous gibberish noise. 

These leave anyone physically or mentally shaken and trigger a physiologic stress response in the body. About 2% of adults aged between 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss and about 15% of Americans (37.5 million) of 18 years or more report having hearing trouble. Studies have found that any person with reduced hearing can become quite physically exhausted at the end of the day which ultimately impacts workplace presentations. 

There is a subtle difference between noise and background sound. While commotion can decrease employee performance, any pleasant steady hum within 70 decibels helps increase focus and alertness. This is known as ‘white noise’. Another type is the ambient sound like that of a waterfall or rain can foster creativity.

Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.  

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