June 17, 2016
Open-plan offices are meant to encourage collaboration and contribute to a collegial workplace culture, but they also come with serious drawbacks like noise and distraction. New research claims that more than half of employees said poor office acoustic design reduces their satisfaction at work. Many feel compelled to solve the problem on their own, blocking out distraction through visits to break out spaces, taking walks outside, or listening to white noise and music on headsets or headphones. The survey of more than 600 executives and 600 employees by Oxford Economics and Plantronics set out to understand what works for employees—and what doesn’t—about open-plan layouts, and to test for disconnects between workers and their managers. The results show that threats to productivity and worker peace of mind are bigger issues than most executives realise, and most do not have the technology or strategies in place to deal with the problems.
The survey found that one of the biggest issues is that employers don’t always appreciate the problems. Workers want to work, and their ability to focus without interruptions is a top priority and when it comes to office design; access to amenities like free food is far less important. However, nearly two-thirds of executives say employees are equipped with the tools they need to deal with distractions at work; but less than half of employees agree.
Good workplace design takes employee needs into consideration and facilitates activities that enhance productivity, but as the report warns; if companies are not careful, workers may turn conference rooms into de facto offices, defeating the purpose of both open-plan layouts and shared meeting spaces.
However, some businesses are already getting it right. One group of executive respondents in the survey reports more business value from technology than their peers, in terms of employee productivity and even bottom-line performance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these companies are also more likely to have taken specific steps to equip employees with the right working environment, tools, and culture.
According to the report, better office environments and workplace technology should improve productivity, engagement, and happiness at work, both for executives and their employees. And as work and life are increasingly intertwined, these changes are likely to extend to the hours outside the office.
Businesses must recognize the challenges of this new environment and create a tactical plan to navigate them. Getting it right will position them to capitalize on the value of technology and the way we work now.
Click on the link to download: When the walls come down.