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This is how you deal with stimuli and noise in the workplace

Finally we can go again! The home work advice has been 50/50 since last week and we have never gone to the office with such enthusiasm. Goodbye video calling and hello colleagues who are a lot more fun in person. However, this return is not without a struggle. After 2 years of working from our quiet home, that stimulating sound environment in the office can be experienced as disturbing and tiring. This is not good for our performance. Today on World Hearing Day, Specsavers is giving tips on how to deal with noise in the workplace and how to make your working day as relaxed as possible.

Sound impact on your health

Chatting colleagues and vibrating, ringing telephones – the bustling office floor is very cosy, but you may find yourself more tired at the end of the day than you thought. That is not surprising, because these stimuli can lead to fatigue, irritation, headaches and concentration problems, which in turn reduces your productivity. Too much noise in the workplace can have a negative impact on your health and work efficiency. Anne Venneri, hearing care professional at Specsavers, explains:“Precisely because we are no longer used to all these noises in the workplace in recent years, it now hits us extra hard and can trigger fatigue.”

More unrest due to hybrid work

Moreover, Venneri emphasizes that due to the new hybrid working method, in which a combination of video calling and physical meetings has become normal, noise pollution will only increase:“Due to the new hybrid working method, people will call into meetings more from the office. If people are video calling behind their desks, this leads to even more unrest in the office.” Venneri continues:“On top of that, now that we are finally speaking live again, this leads to longer conversations in between, which all affect concentration. It takes an average of 20 minutes before you can fully focus on your work again from the moment you were distracted. Taking care of your sound environment during work therefore becomes even more important.”

2.6 million Dutch people are extra susceptible

In addition, people with hearing problems are even more bothered by the increased noise level in the office. People with impaired hearing, tinnitus and sensitivity to sound run an extra risk of complaints in an unhealthy sound environment. They may even be completely exhausted at the end of the working day. As many as one in eight Dutch people already suffers from hearing problems (varying from mild to severe) and therefore the switch to the office has more impact than you might think. So it is something to be seriously aware of, for yourself and for others.

Tips for working in the office

Fortunately, this does not mean that you have to look for your home workplace again. It is more important to take extra care of your hearing and the sound environment in the workplace, and to take into account others who may have hearing problems. This is the best way to deal with this:

  • Be aware of the impact of your voice and pay attention to your volume during phone calls
  • Find a meeting room or shielded flex desk for video calling, meetings or a casual meeting
  • Use (noise canceling) headphones for your digital meetings and install noise-reduction software on your laptop
  • Communicate clearly with your colleagues that you consciously put on your headphones during focus work, so they know not to disturb you
  • Turn off sound notifications on your phone or laptop
  • Plan your agenda with sufficient variation between:video calling, live conversations and undisturbed working hours and take sufficient short breaks in between; rather more often short than once long. Go outside and get some fresh air
  • Bring up the topic of noise in a team meeting, so that you can be extra alert and make agreements with each other
  • Do you wear a hearing aid? Today, these can often be connected to your phone or laptop via Bluetooth for optimal intelligibility and minimal inconvenience

Tips for employers

Not only employees, but also employers can help prevent complaints by reducing noise nuisance in the office or making it more tolerable. This is how you as an employer can help your employees:

  • Be aware of the impact of sound
  • Engage with employees about their workplace experience
  • Make the subject of sound and hearing negotiable
  • Make agreements with each other about where employees can make (video) calls
  • Look for options to reduce noise levels and improve acoustics. There are all kinds of tools for this, such as acoustic screens and meeting boxes
  • Place noisy devices such as printers, servers and coffee machines in a separate room
  • Make sure there are enough quiet areas
  • Bring your office garden into bloom, because plants also reduce environmental noise (yes really!)
  • Are you curious about your hearing? Then visit a Specsavers branch for a no-obligation hearing test and professional advice from a hearing care professional.

With these tips you can at least continue to work “silently” in the office and enjoy the fact that we can meet again at the office. Time to welcome the open-plan offices with open arms again!