Open Office Layouts Have Adverse Impact: Research

June 21, 2016 by Kimberly Tallon

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?

*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:

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