Noise, stress and productivity.

Reducing Noise Can Reduce WFH Stress & Raise Productivity

The new normal for work - remote working environment

The Covid-19 pandemic has redefined the way we work. Many companies are now allowing employees to work remotely. Standard Chartered Bank, for example, has announced that it will offer flexible work options to more than 90% of its staff over the coming three years. However, as more people work from home (WFH), they are waking up to the reality that their home environments are more noisy than they realised.

Noise is a common problem in a land-scarce nation like Singapore. Which residential, industrial and commercials establishments are created next to one another. However, many do not know the danger of long-term exposure to noise, and think that they can eventually adapt to living in a noisy environment. Unfortunately, prolonged or chronic noise pollution can lead to several health issues such as stress and depression. It can also impact productivity.

Research in Europe has found that people living in areas with more traffic noise were 25% more likely to have symptoms of depression. Meanwhile, a 10 decibel (dB) increase in aircraft noise was associated with a 28% increase in anxiety medication use for people living near airports.

In Singapore, according to research by NUS, the average outdoor noise level is 69.4 dB. This is more than 3 times beyond the recommended night exposure limit set by the World Health Organisation Europe (WHO-EU) of 40 dB.

According to Thomas Munzel, a cardiologist at the Hohannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, noise in the middle of the night creates an awakening reaction. This noise triggers the brain to send distress signals and signals the adrenal glands to pump adrenaline into the bloodstream. This adrenaline and cortisol, a stress hormone, will bring on physiological changes including a spike in heart rates and blood pressure. When this chronic exposure to noise continues, the stress hormones will slowly wear the body down, causing mental and physical health problems.

Productivity and quality of work decrease due to noise

Aside from stress, studies have shown that noise pollution is a primary cause of decreased employee productivity. An employee productivity study by Gypsum in British found that, reducing noise in the workplace can raise employee productivity by 50% and reduce stress levels by 30%. Meanwhile, a study by The British Journal of Psychology, showed noise pollution decreases the accuracy of employee work by almost 67%.  Workers were asked to perform two asks, first without noise and then with a recording of general office noise.

Copping to the new normal

WFH is here to stay, as we grapple with Covid-19 and transition to a new normal. More and more, people have to communicate via video or tele-conferencing and will require quiet workspaces. To help employees cope with remote working, many organisations have rolled out initiatives such as employee welfare care-packs.

However, companies should also help employees tackle noise pollution at home. This can be done by helping to off-set some of the expense of noise reduction should employees choose to soundproof their windows or doors. This could potentially safeguard employee well-being and enhance productivity.