Shh! Noisy, open-plan offices are distracting your employees

Shh! Noisy, open-plan offices are distracting your employees

Trying to get work done while people are chatting, phones are ringing, and printers are buzzing can be a major challenge for the workforce – but executives don’t understand the extent of the problem these distractions cause.

Research from Plantronics has found that only one per cent of employees (down from 20% in 2015) say they are able to block out distractions and concentrate without taking extra steps in the office.

However, while 54% of executives believe their employees have the tools they need to mitigate noise and distraction in the office, only 29% of employees agree. And to make matters worse, 63% of employees say they lack quiet space for focused work, which has a negative effect on their productivity, satisfaction and well-being.

The research suggests that the best-performing companies take noise and distraction into consideration. More than three-quarters of top performers (defined as those with revenue growth above ten per cent and less turnover) report that office design and noise mitigation are important to financial performance and are proactively addressing the noise epidemic in their offices. They are also more likely to provide workers with tools to block out noise and quiet space to focus, and less likely to say some employees find a noisy environment energizing (28% versus 50% of others).

One of the key causes of a noisy environment is having an open plan office, where there are less walls and dividers shielding people from sounds. However, just six per cent of executives reported having equipped their office with noise mitigating features. 

“This year’s results are telling,” said Jennifer Adams, Director at Enterprise Solutions Marketing.

“Open offices may provide overall cost savings, but they’re taking a toll on our productivity and wellness.”

Research from Canada Life Group Insurance in 2014 found that those who work in open plan offices are almost six times more likely than home workers to believe their working environment promotes stress (28% vs five per cent).

“While often missing out on the social aspects and colleague engagement, having clear, focused and uninterrupted time is priceless,” added Paul Avis, Marketing Director of Canada Life Group. “With increasing commute times for many, trusting employees to work from home can increase morale and reduce stress levels whilst giving employees more time in their day.”

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Comments (1)

  • Boris
    Thu, 14 Jun 2018 2:49pm BST
    At last, someone's finally realised and reported on something I've been trying to get across to management for years. I've worked in my fair share of offices and the vast majority are open plan, which is great if you need fast access to others in your team, but not so good when you want to try and get on with things.
    While I don't think the answer is to provide everyone with enclosed offices it would be a good idea to have designated quiet zones to enable people to get away. If you're on a deadline or writing a report and need to focus it can be hard when everyone else is joking about their weekend or discussing things.

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