They say silence is golden, but for those working from home and feeling isolated, the lack of human company can almost be deafening – so many are now turning to artificial ‘soundscapes’ of offices for comfort.
Dozens of websites and apps now offer a constant stream of background sounds to recreate the hustle and bustle of the office environment.
Visitors to soundofcolleagues.com can enjoy everything from phones ringing, people chatting and the coffee machine brewing, to rain pelting against the windows, the clacking of keyboards and even the friendly bark of the office dog.
Dozens of apps are websites are helping home-based workers feel less isolated at home by offering the soundscape of a busy office environment (file pic)
The project is the work of Red Pipe Studios, based in Stockholm. Its founder, Tobias Norman, told The Sunday Times that his website has attracted a million visitors worldwide, including 75,000 from Britain.
He said: ‘Humans tend to feel more comfortable in a group and people can get stressed when suddenly they are put in a more isolated situation.’
Neil Greenberg, professor of mental health at King’s College London, added: ‘With silence, it’s easy to be distracted by small interruptions.
‘You’re better off being in a busy environment where you get used to the noise and then concentrate on what’s in front of you,’ said Greenberg.
The Sound of Colleagues website offers a variety of noises, from the clacking of keyboards to rain pelting against a window and even a friendly office dog barking
Another website offering simulated noises can be found at imisstheoffice.eu, where visitors can enjoy the sound of people walking across the office floor, laughing and even that annoying colleague who constantly whistles.
Working from home is currently the norm for thousands of people across the country, with almost five in six office employees still staying at home despite the Government’s drive to get staff to return to their workplaces.
A Daily Mail audit of 30 of Britain’s biggest firms, representing 320,000 employees, found that just 17 per cent of office-based staff would travel to work this week.
Boris Johnson had heralded last Monday as the day ‘work from home’ guidance ends and Britain should return to the office.
Reuters Square in Canary Wharf, pictured last week, remains deserted as office workers largely shun going back into the workplace and instead stay at home
He said Britons could go back to the workplace at the ‘discretion’ of their employers and would no longer be advised to stay away from public transport.
But many businesses are not planning for most workers to return to offices until at least towards the end of the year, while the likes of Facebook and bank RBS said staff will not go back until 2021.
Just one firm surveyed, investment bank JP Morgan, had set a target for a substantial return to the office today – just 2,400 of its 19,000 staff.
The approach taken by white-collar workers is in stark contrast to building sites, warehouses, shops and restaurants where staff have been at their workplace for weeks.
Kevin Ellis, chairman of accountancy giant PwC, which has 22,000 staff in Britain, said he believed his employees would only spend three or four days per week at work even after the pandemic.
It had 5,000 staff in its offices last week and he hoped to reach 11,000 by the end of last week.
The Mail contacted 60 of Britain’s biggest firms and half provided a response. Of the 320,000 workers, there are just over 53,000 going into the office.
Three companies said their employees would not return to work until 2021, while a further nine had not confirmed a date.
The Mail’s findings come as a report said London’s pubs, shops and restaurants alone had lost £2.3billion in lunch and after-work trade between March and June.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research calculated the cost of lockdown to ‘ghost town’ London’s hospitality sector at £25million per day.