The tech industry may want to reconsider its trend toward open office plans. Employees say the ability to focus on work without interruptions is a top priority in the workplace—over perks like free food or onsite daycare, according to a recent study from Oxford Economics and Plantronics.
“Noise and distractions present big challenges in the workplace,” said Beau Wilder, vice president of innovation waves and new products at Plantronics. “Noise from an open-plan office is often picked up on calls and can distract those working from other locations.”
But there appears to be a disconnect between manager and worker perspectives on the issue: Nearly two-thirds of executives said employees are equipped to deal with distractions at work, but less than half of employees agreed.
The study surveyed 1,200 global employees and executives. Millennials were more likely than other age groups to say that noise distracts them from their work. They also reported being more annoyed by ambient noise in their offices than other workers did.
“Very few companies have taken meaningful steps to address the problem—noise is often an afterthought in office construction, and executives overestimate employees’ ability to drown it out with the tools available to them,” Wilder said. “But when a company takes on the issue, good workplace design can go a really long way toward employee happiness and productivity.”
More than half of employees say ambient noise reduces their satisfaction at work, the report stated. “Many feel compelled to solve the problem on their own, blocking out distraction through visits to the breakroom, taking walks outside, or listening to white noise and music on headsets or headphones,” Wilder said. “Some of these tools can be effective to a degree, but a lot of these personal solutions can cause distraction or fatigue, and employees walling themselves off from others aren’t able to experience the benefits the collaborative space was specifically designed for.”
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