In a recent report by Oscar Acoustics, concerning the state of workplace environments in the finance sector, it has been revealed that a significant number of women are resorting to remote work due to intolerable levels of office noise.

The report, titled “The UK’s Productivity Pitfall,” underscores the challenges faced by women in finance amidst the era of hybrid working.

The study, which scrutinised the working conditions of 1,500 UK finance and professional services employees and managers, conducted by OnePoll in May 2023, identified a prevailing issue of excessive noise in office spaces across the UK. Notably, a staggering one-third (33%) of women in finance are compelled to work from home as a means to “escape the racket.”

The detrimental effects of workplace noise on professional performance were starkly evident in the findings. According to the report, 39 percent of female bankers acknowledged delivering poor-quality work, while 57 percent reported difficulties concentrating in environments where noise levels escalated.

Males experience less noise related issues

In contrast, the proportions were lower among male counterparts, with 36 percent admitting to poor-quality work and 47 percent experiencing concentration issues due to noise.

Among the grievances voiced by women in finance, incessant chatter among colleagues ranked as the top annoyance, cited by 51 percent of respondents. Additionally, desk-based video calls were identified as a constant source of disruption.

To compensate for the shortcomings induced by noisy office environments, a quarter of women (25%) reported resorting to working longer hours, a figure that saw a marginal increase from a previous study conducted in 2022.

The report also shed light on perceptions of senior management’s response to the issue, revealing that 22 percent of women felt that senior management did not take the matter seriously, compared to 14 percent of men. This disparity in perceived response exacerbates the stress and lack of focus experienced by female employees.

Is there a link between productivity and quieter surroundings?

Furthermore, the study established a correlation between productivity and the presence of quieter surroundings, with 34 percent of women asserting they performed best when working from the comfort of their homes, compared to 29 percent of men.

These findings emerge amid a broader discourse on remote work’s implications for women’s careers. While remote work offers certain advantages such as access to better-paying jobs and improved work-life balance, it also poses challenges, including limited networking opportunities and potential stigmatisation for prioritising family over work.

Ben Hancock, Managing Director at Oscar Acoustics, emphasised the urgency of addressing office noise issues to incentivise staff to return to the office, particularly amid economic challenges. Hancock highlighted the importance of creating conducive work environments to foster productivity and mitigate the adverse impacts on both employees and businesses.

In light of the report’s revelations, it is evident that the issue of workplace noise represents a significant barrier to gender equality and professional advancement in the finance sector. Addressing this issue is not only crucial for the well-being and performance of employees but also for the overall productivity and success of businesses in the UK.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.