Problems with noise at work? A lot of it is in our heads

When it comes to working in an office, hell really can be other people. Many staff can have enormous difficulties coming to terms with the sounds that form the backdrop to their working day, especially if they work in open plan areas. The problem of noise at work is particularly acute right now because most UK employees now work in open plan offices and at workstations that are on average about 20 percent smaller than they were ten years or so ago. Yet, on the face of it, the business case for working in open plan offices is pretty clear cut. Not only is it more conducive to communication and less bound by ideas of that great contemporary no-no that we call ‘status’, open plan workstations not only take up around half the space of cellular offices, the costs of fitting out a cellular office are around 25 per cent higher than an equivalent open plan space. It’s no surprise that the open plan is the default model for most workplaces in many countries.