There’s a significant gap in understanding between senior executives and employees when it comes to ensuring productivity and satisfaction at work, according to a recent study.

Employees just want to do their jobs well, the study found, which requires a distraction-free environment, work/life balance, and seamlessly integrated technology.

Unfortunately, the survey from global analytics firm Oxford Economics revealed a disconnect between executives and employees regarding what’s important for a productive work environment.

Oxford Economics partnered with Plantronics in third-quarter 2015 to conduct a global survey of more than 1,200 senior executives and nonexecutive employees about workplace design and technology.

The current trend of open-plan office layouts can have an adverse impact on employee productivity and satisfaction, the survey revealed.

More than half (53 percent) of employees surveyed said ambient noise in the office reduces their satisfaction and productivity, and just 41 percent said they have the tools they need to filter out distractions at work. Meanwhile, only 35 percent of executives believe their employees are adversely affected by noise, while 63 percent believe employees have the tools needed to filter any distractions.

Which of the following are most important to you in your work environment?

  • The ability to focus and work without interruptions—29%
  • Having space to collaborate with co-workers easily and effectively—24%
  • The ability to seamlessly connect my devices no matter where I am in the office—19%

*Respondents were asked to rank their top three choices. Percentages above are for those ranked No. 1.

Forty percent of employees surveyed said they are distracted enough to take steps to drown out the noise around them, including listening to white noise or music or taking a walk.

Employees surveyed said blocking out noise and other distractions increases their productivity (64 percent), reduces errors (52 percent) and allows them to focus on the task in front of them (48 percent).

The ability to focus is the top priority for employees when it comes to their workspace—ranked No. 1 by 29 percent of those surveyed—but executives said minimizing distractions was at the bottom of their priority list when the office space was designed.

Why the disparity? Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of the surveyed executives have a private office compared to only 14 percent of nonexecutive employees.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • 59 percent of executives said they have the tools needed to do their jobs from anywhere, compared to only 40 percent of employees.
  • While only 26 percent of the executives said they expect their team to be available after hours, 46 percent of employees said they are expected to be available.
  • 52 percent of employees said work/life balance is very important to them, but only 34 percent of executives believe this matters to workers.
  • 65 percent of employees say they prefer a single device for their personal and work lives, rather than separate devices.
  • 43 percent of executives said they feel pressure (brought on by themselves or others) to always be connected as a result of new digital technologies, compared to 27 percent of employees surveyed.

For more information, see “When the Walls Come Down.”