Noise can affect people in a variety of ways, it may be distracting, irritating or stressful.

While we recognise the acute impacts that these noises have, for example, we get irritated or annoyed, we have only begun to uncover longer terms effects that this sustained stress can have on our health.

The latest Sony Sound Report revealed that 80% of Australians encounter unwanted noise in the workplace (otherwise known as noise pollution) and when it comes to the most irritating noises the biggest complaints from Aussies are the sounds of their own co-workers.

It found that noise pollution in the workplace is making Aussies irritable or annoyed (44%) and even contributes to their daily stress (31%).

Employees also feel that unwanted noises make it harder to concentrate and stay focused (54%), but less than half (42%) think this noise pollution has a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.

Considering the implications that noise pollution has on workers, companies and employees alike should strive to create the best working environment to reduce this stress, increase productivity and inspire creativity.

The stress of these noises throughout the day can even disrupt our sleep that evening, which will increase our tiredness and dampen productivity the following day. Other studies have found that it can eventually have an impact on the cardiovascular system and is associated with an increased incidence of arterial hypertension, myocardial infarction, heart failure, and stroke.

Due to the increasing need for flexible working and collaborative environments, far more Australians are now working in an open-plan office (30%), than an office which is not open plan (13%). Other environments include retail or hospitality (15%), education institutes (9%) and healthcare facilities (8%).

Workers talking or laughing too loudly is a common complaint and irritation amongst Aussies, especially those working in open-plan offices (51% open-plan versus 33% overall average). Other common forms of noise pollution for Aussie workers include telephones ringing and not being answered (32%), colleagues sneezing, coughing or sniffing (28%), nearby construction (27%) and colleagues talking on their phones (21%). Australian workers are less likely to be bothered by the sounds of nearby traffic (17%).

Businesses and employers need to build a culture and put solutions in place to minimise the distracting noises and make it a productive working environment, such as good office acoustic design and noise cancelling headphones. Noise and stress are cumulative and everyone needs a break from noise. Taking regular lunch breaks or going for a walk during the day is a great strategy for your physical and mental health.

For further support & advice contact EAP Assist.