Noise pollution in offices is worsening and people are leaving jobs as a result

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, a new report from Oxford Economics, commissioned by Plantronics has claimed. According to the report, conditions are much worse now than three years ago when Oxford Economics conducted its first study. The report polled senior executives and non-manager employees in the UK and across the globe to learn more about productivity and collaboration as it relates to the open office. It found that open offices aren’t delivering on collaboration and productivity goals. Instead, employees are finding alternative ways to find quiet space and focus. In fact three quarters of employees say they need to take walks outside and 32 percent listen to headphones to focus and block out distraction, while employees in the noisiest office environments are more likely to say they’ll leave their job in the next six months.

The report also claims that noise and distractions are having a negative impact on employee wellness, productivity and financial performance, as 63 percent of employees say they lack quiet space for focused work, which has a negative effect on their productivity, satisfaction and well-being.

Oxford Economics interviewed 500 senior executives and non-manager employees from many industries and functional areas for the 2018 study. Participants hailed from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, India, China, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway. The study also included detailed interviews with executives who are taking steps to deal with these business collaboration and productivity challenges in their open offices.

As a result, employees are taking matters into their own hands by leaving or tuning out their surroundings to get work done:

  • 75 percent of employees say they need to take walks outside to focus, and 32 percent use headphones to block out distraction.
  • Employees in the noisiest office environments are more likely to say they may leave their job in the next six months.

 

Wellness, Productivity and Financial Performance

The findings suggest that noise and distraction impact wellness, productivity and even financial performance, yet executives aren’t doing enough to address the problem:

  • 63 percent of employees say they lack quiet space for focused work, which has a negative effect on their productivity, satisfaction and well-being.
  • 96 percent of executives see employee productivity as critical to their financial performance, yet just 40 percent understand the link between noise, distraction and productivity.
  • A mere 6 percent of executives report having equipped their office with noise mitigating features.

 

Millennials 

According to the study, millennials, or those aged 22 to 36, 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. Millennial employees are:

  • Much less likely to say they find a noisy working environment energizing (9 percent, versus 30 percent of older colleagues).
  • Less satisfied with their office layout than older employees (38 percent of millennials versus 48 percent of others).
  • More likely to say their organization should address noise, distraction and information overload (89 percent versus 75 percent of older coworkers).
  • More likely to say they take walks outside to focus (84 percent versus 63 percent of older employees), and less likely to use an office break room or quiet space.
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