Women in Finance ‘Driven Out of Offices’ Due to Workplace Noise

A new report by Oscar Acoustics, has found that women in finance are struggling to deal with noisy offices and that a third (33%) are forced to work from home in a bid to ‘escape the racket’.

The study, The UK’s Productivity Pitfall, analysed the suitability of office work spaces in the era of hybrid working.

Overwhelmingly, it found that much of the UK’s office space falls foul to high volumes of noise, discouraging staff from returning to their workplace HQs – particularly women. The results came as part of a survey of 1,500 UK finance and professional services employees and managers, conducted by OnePoll, in May 2023.

The issue of noise has become so challenging that it’s having a direct impact on professional performance – two in five female bankers (39%) admit to delivering poor quality work, and almost three in five (57%) said they had difficulty concentrating in rooms where noise levels were allowed to escalate. In comparison, over a third (36%) and under half (47%) of men admit the same, respectively.

When it came to noise ‘bug-bears’, over half (51%) of women bankers cited nattering between colleagues as their ultimate pet peeve, whilst only four in ten (42%) of men felt the same way. Desk-based video calls were also cited as a constant annoyance.

To make up for their professional shortfalls, a quarter of women (25%) have to either work later or come into the office early to catch up on work – up 2% on a 2022 version of the study.

For many women in financial services, the problem seems to start at the top – one in five (22%) believe that senior management are not taking the issue seriously, compared to just 14% of men, leaving employees to struggle and leaving them stressed and unfocused.

Significantly, the findings indicated a clear link between the quality of work produced in quieter surroundings and that of an unruly office. More than a third of women (34%) said they work best when comfortable in their own homes, but less than a third (29%) of men acknowledged the same.

The results come at a time of contention – where remote working can be a potential hindrance to women’s careers. Studies such as those at George Washington University found that whilst there are some benefits for women such as access to better-paying jobs without the need to relocate and better work/life balance they can also be stigmatised more than men for what is seen as prioritising family over work. Equally, remote working offers less chance to network with colleagues which can harm career advancements. To put women at a further disadvantage, research published by Forbes found that people working from home got promoted 31% less frequently in the past year than office-based workers. Nearly 90% of CEOs also reported they are more likely to prioritise in-office employees for career-advancing projects, raises, or promotions[1]. This comes at a time of already widespread pay disparity – a recent Guardian study found that women at four in five employers in Great Britain are paid less than men[2].

Ben Hancock, Managing Director at Oscar Acoustics, said: “It’s clear that much of the UK’s office space, particularly within the finance sector is falling short of expectations. Whilst our research shows this impacts both men and women, it’s female workers who are struggling the most. As well as affecting their performance at work, it’s forcing women to work remotely, something that can limit their chances of climbing the career ladder.

“British business is also placing greater focus on productivity than ever before. With the news that the UK has officially fallen into a recession, it’s essential that companies find ways to incentivise staff back to the office – this means tackling office noise once and for all.

“It’s clear that businesses need to wake up to the impact of acoustics, and delivering safe and comfortable spaces is the best way to foster an environment for workers to thrive – their staff and bottom lines will thank them for it.”

To find out more about Oscar Acoustics’ study into workplace noise within the financial services sector, you can download the 2023 Report – The UK’s Productivity Pitfall, from the link below.

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