According to the findings of Plantronics, noise pollution of the open office has grown much worse since Oxford Economics conducted its first study in 2015. In a recent release, Oxford Economics found that open office conditions are dramatically declining. The majority of executives and employees report near-constant noise in their workplace and many say they lack quiet space for meetings or to focus. In fact, conditions are much worse now than three years ago.
Only 1% of employees (down from 20 per cent in 2015) say they are able to block out distractions and concentrate without taking extra steps in the office. Meanwhile, more than half (54%) of executives believe their employees have the tools they need to mitigate noise and distraction in the office, but only 29% of employees agree (down from 41% in 2015) – showing that the executive disconnect remains.
The release said: “As a result, employees are taking matters into their own hands by leaving or tuning out their surroundings to get work done with 75% of employees saying they need to take walks outside to focus, and 32% use headphones to block out distraction.”
“Additionally, employees in the noisiest office environments are more likely to say they may leave their job in the next six months,” it added.
On another hand, the findings suggest that noise and distraction impact wellness, productivity and even financial performance. However, executives aren’t doing enough to address the problem. The study revealed that 63% of employees say they lack quiet space for focused work, which has a negative effect on their productivity, satisfaction and well-being.
Meanwhile, 96% of executives see employee productivity as critical to their financial performance, yet only 40% understand the link between noise, distraction and productivity. On that note, only 6% of executives report having equipped their office with noise mitigating features.
According to the study, Millennials are more accustomed to an open office versus older colleagues, likely because they started careers in such a setting. Despite that, they are the first to acknowledge the issues that come with these environments and tend to deal with these challenges differently than their older colleagues.
Meanwhile, Millennials are much less likely to say they find a noisy working environment energising (9% versus 30% of older colleagues). Additionally, Millennials are less satisfied with their office layout than older employees (38% of millennials versus 48% of others). Millennials are also more likely to say their organisation should address noise, distraction and information overload (89% versus 75% of older coworkers); while more Millennials are likely to take walks outside to focus (84% versus 63% of older employees), and less likely to use an office break room or quiet space.
The survey shows a correlation between companies’ revenue growth and how those same companies approach their work environments.
More than three-quarters of top performers (revenue growth above 10% and one with less turnover) report that office design and noise mitigation are important to financial performance and are proactively addressing the noise epidemic in their offices.
“These top-performing companies are more likely to provide workers with tools to block out noise and quiet space to focus,” it said.
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