Just as mobile phones or vehicles have evolved in response to global, technological trends, so too have workspaces. Where businesses once subscribed to the traditional, private office structure, many now favour the open plan. But as real estate prices continue to rise, and our population increases, workspaces are becoming smaller, busier and noisier. Silence has become a luxury that few are afforded. We need to do more to facilitate silence, as it helps enable focus and is arguably one of the most important contributors to workplace productivity.

Jabra research shows that 25% of Call Centric workers believe office noise ruins their productivity. Interruptions are also painful. 19% say that they have too many calls to take, and 22% say they receive too many distracting emails throughout the day.

The problem with noise is that it affects our ability to really listen. Trying to hear in a noisy environment is like skim reading. There’s so much going on that you only pull out the key details and overlook the message as a whole. You’ve got enough to get by on, but you’re unable to comprehend the full extent of what you’ve been told.

This staggered comprehension of verbal information can be detrimental to businesses that thrive on customer care and personalised service. The ability to listen and understand is vital to keeping a customer happy. Nowadays, there are countless ways that a customer can contact a brand. If they’ve chosen to call, it means they want to be heard.

In circumstances like this, it is imperative that communication is seamless – no fuzzy phone lines, no muffled voices, no disturbances in the background. The benefits are twofold. Firstly, customers will be satisfied with their call experience, giving your brand a great name for customer service. Secondly, having the right tools to do your job properly can reduce the stress of your workload. There’s nothing worse than having your day slowed down by tech that cannot keep up.

The private versus open-plan office debate has been raging for years. At its root, it’s a comparison between socialisation to reduce stress, and the need for a quiet environment to effectively complete work, which also reduces stress. With both achieving the same end goal, the discussion would be more fruitful if we focused on how to get there.

While it may feel as though our ability to listen in the workplace is diminishing, we have the power to reinvigorate this vital skill, regardless of whether your office is open plan or not.

Prioritise audio technology that is designed to help you listen. A headset that offers noise cancellation, wireless connectivity, advanced speaker and microphone technology to improve call clarity, as well as intelligent software integration can transform the quality of your conversations.

As a leader, it’s also important that you exercise your listening muscles. Though we’ve been doing it since before we were born, listening is a skill we need to continuously work on. Just as being a good speaker, conversationalist or writer takes effort, so too does being an outstanding listener.

It’s imperative that we live by our values and encourage our staff to do the same. Block out time in your calendar for periods of reflection, where you mull over more complex information. Structure your offices to reduce noise in certain spaces. Encourage meetings that are geared towards being productive to reduce email overload and implement technologies that allow your employees to listen more effectively.