Open Office Peril: Loud Talkers

Space shuttle launches, gunfire, and Sam in Sales are among the loudest sounds humans can be exposed to. We all have those co-workers who speak loud enough to wake the dead. Though they might not do lasting damage to our eardrums, they are a huge threat to workplace productivity, especially in the open office.

In a new survey commissioned by Poly in partnership with Future Workplace, 5,151 multi-generational office workers around the world were asked for their perspective on the open office. One result clearly stood out: nothing annoys open office workers more than other office workers.

Chief Office Culprit: Loud Conversations 

You know the saying: you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. Well, you can’t choose your co-workers, either, and they ultimately are the biggest distraction in the open office. It’s not the copy machine or the office dog that tops the list of biggest noise offenders, but the co-workers talking loudly on phone calls that consistently distracts 76% of our survey respondents.

It makes sense. Research shows it’s not noise volume that distracts us the most but speech intelligibility. The more you understand the words being said, the more distracted you’ll become.

Shouldn’t people report loud talkers to the boss or HR? Maybe not—this is a place where IT can play a critical role in improving productivity.

IT Can Build the Escape Plan

IT has a clear role because they have some of the most effective tools to create safe havens for workers trying to focus. By selecting the right headsets, handsets, and microphones it’s easy to create an oasis of calm amidst the noise.

So what are the options available? Can wearables and peripherals really provide an answer?

Let’s break it down: why do people talk so loudly on telephone and video calls? It’s often because of shortcomings in their technology. Consider these scenarios:


If you’re having a hard time hearing the other end, you naturally talk louder, too. Tinny speakers and inexpensive earbuds don’t provide you with the same audio integrity as Poly headsets and speakerphones. The result is choppy conversations, errors, and repeats—and the natural reflex to make your voice louder to compensate.


Imagine you’re wearing a headset designed to block external noise so you can enjoy your music playlist. That same headset blocks you from hearing your own voice when you speak. The result: your music sounds great but you’re now a loud talker when you’re on a call. Poly’s enterprise-grade headsets are engineered to distinguish between voice, music, and external noises, and offer side tone that lets you hear enough of your own voice to keep you from being “that guy.”


Loud voices can project right through the walls of conference rooms. A door is no match for coworkers shouting to ensure they’re heard when the conference phone or microphone isn’t directly next to them. The solution is 360-degree microphones. Whether on the table, hung from the ceiling, or built directly into an All in One System, Poly microphones have beam-forming arrays that pick up only the sounds that should be heard. When people understand they can be heard clearly regardless of where they are in the room, they’ll start using their “inside” voices.

It seems that employees have already cracked the code—more than half (56%) of workers in the survey reported that they want better technology to be more productive. IT in workplaces everywhere have been busy ushering in new software and converting to cloud computing. Isn’t it time to put just as much stock into the hardware that employees are using? Audio innovations—yes, peripherals—are the first line of defence against those distractions that are killing productivity.

So may perils, so many solutions – to read more about the Perils of an open office and how Polycom can help you overcome them, click HERE 

For more information on the Plantronics and Polycom range of products, please click HERE to visit their website

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