EPOS states that ‘we cannot ignore the impact that bad audio has on our emotional wellbeing. Small daily frustrations are part of a more disturbing situation’.
Sure, it’s a little weird to say that as a speaker manufacturer. Nevertheless, there is an interesting core-message in the press release EPOS sent us. A story that also gives us a bit of food for thought. Because although EPOS is mainly focused on business with headsets and the like, the quality of audio clearly and imperceptibly affects our well-being. That is why we show the whole message – from EPOS – below. And no, no surreptitious advertising or advertorial, just a nice story. In short, read it:
We cannot ignore the impact that bad audio has on our emotional well-being
Small daily frustrations are part of a more disturbing situation. The events of 2020 have accelerated the pace at which remote working has become the norm and blurred the boundaries between work and private life. Research by EPOS has shown that 95% of today’s workforce admit that their concentration and efficiency at work suffers from audio setbacks. This results in an emotional impact, with 35% of respondents reporting feelings of frustration, irritation and annoyance as a result of poor audio. More disturbingly, the study also found that 25% of end users experience stress and 15% of respondents are even ashamed or more insecure.
Poor audio experiences cause damage, not only to organizations, but also to people’s well-being. Stress-related disorders are a major cause of absenteeism among employees in the Netherlands. It directly costs the economy around 2.8 billion euros per year. The expansion of technologies to accommodate new ways of working has led to a significant increase in the number of telephone calls and virtual meetings. This switch to the virtual world has led to more small frustrations being experienced every day. Examples cited by respondents include background noise (42%), things needing to be repeated (34%) and questions as to whether information can be repeated (34%).
According to Sir Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the Manchester Business School, a gradual build-up of these frustrations has a profound effect on the emotional wellbeing of employees. This is a cause for concern, as emotional stressors can lead to problems that go far beyond lost productivity: “The last few months have shown that noisy environments that are not meant to work in create more stressful situations, especially when combined with higher expectations. For employees connected to colleagues remotely and via multiple devices (mobile phones, emails and communication and collaboration platforms), the demand for result-oriented working has increased almost immediately. However, this approach to working is not sustainable and it is up to employers to find the right solution for the situation together with their employees. By working together, companies can find the best solutions that support team morale, create harmony and optimize productivity and efficiency”
Working from home a keeper
Millions of people all over the world meet each other in a virtual way and those numbers are only expected to increase. Microsoft Teams recently reported a new daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes in a single day. A large part of the global workforce continues to work from home. However, therein lies the dangerous habit for employees to always be ‘online’ and ‘available’. Determining work-life balance has never been more important, as ‘always on’ behaviour can contribute to higher stress levels.
According to Dr. Cary Cooper, when people work from home, organisations also need to ensure that employees don’t come to work unnecessarily. The feeling of “out of sight, out of heart” often plays a role with employees who work remotely. To remedy this, virtual meetings are increasingly being used. However, these added meetings often do not lead to higher productivity. Cooper recommends ensuring that both employers and employees are aware of the number of meetings organised and that everyone should ask themselves, “Could this also be done by e-mail?
How are we affected by noise?
The open office was once the standard way of working for most organisations, and one that could return. For most employees, however, a new set of challenges has emerged. Because many people around the world continue to work remotely, background noise poses a serious threat. Not only for our productivity, but also for our health. Until now, we have not often considered the negative impact that poor audio has on our emotional wellbeing. However, working remotely has brought this problem into the spotlight. The need to take action has gained momentum to prevent it from having an adverse effect on employees’ health. By tackling the noise problems people face, we can quickly improve employee productivity and wellbeing, thereby unlocking our employees’ potential.
But if someone remains exposed to disturbing and intrusive sounds due to bad audio, there can be a steady build-up of fatigue and stress. This is because the sensory over-stimulation of the audio touches the brain, which in response produces the stress hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol can inhibit the functions of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the core of emotional learning and processing that enables us to regulate thoughtful behaviour, such as logical thinking and planning. Chronic mental overtiredness and elevated levels of cortisol can lead to long-term problems. Exposure to sounds that trigger a stress reaction will inevitably weaken a person, resulting in both mental and physical problems.
“If you’ve ever experienced a day full of interrupted and ineffective conversations, this can feel tiring. This is because the brain wastes unnecessary energy and cognitive capacity to concentrate on just the relevant and desired sound,” says Jesper Kock, acting head of the Research & Development department at EPOS. He continues: “Spreading this effort over a period of days, weeks and months can be very damaging to well-being. It is for these reasons that the use of a device with a high quality loudspeaker and microphone to eliminate distracting noises has become so important”
Organisational culture of well-being
Companies generally have a duty of care towards their employees. This is especially true when working remotely to ensure that they are not overburdened. Monitoring the well-being of employees should be arranged from above. Some 79% of decision-makers say they agree that good audio equipment such as headsets, headphones and speakerphones are practical solutions for reducing noise problems, both during (telephone) calls and afterwards. To further improve well-being (avoiding stress in the workplace and reducing minor daily frustrations), decision-makers should act as advocates for guidelines and investments that eliminate daily stress factors. Whether these are problems with audio, an imbalance between work and private life, or concerns about job security.
1] According to the National Working Conditions Survey (NEA), a study by TNO and CBS (2018).
2] EPOS – Insight into sound experiences https://www.eposaudio.com/en/gb/enterprise/insights/articles/understanding-sound-experiences
EPOS is a company that develops audio and video solutions and sells devices for business professionals and the gaming community. Founded in Denmark, the company is based on leading and advanced technologies, offering high-quality audio and video solutions with design, technology and performance as key indicators.
EPOS was established to serve the business units of the joint venture, known as Sennheiser Communications, namely Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co. KG and Demant A/S, in a different set-up. In addition to the introduction of a new portfolio with its own brand, EPOS will continue to sell Sennheiser Communications’ current portfolio under the joint name EPOS | SENNHEISER.
EPOS is part of the Demant Group – a leading global group of companies in the field of audio and hearing technologies. As such, the company boasts more than 115 years of experience in the field of innovation and sound. EPOS is headquartered in Copenhagen and operates in the international market with offices and partners in more than 30 countries.
More information on www.eposaudio.com.