While open floor work spaces are intended to promote collaboration, a recent report from Oxford Economics and Plantronics suggests they may do more harm than good.
Oxford Economics surveyed 500 senior executives and employees from a variety of industries and countries to see if open offices facilitate productivity and teamwork. The findings proved otherwise, with 63% of employees saying the noise level negatively affects their work and wellness. In fact, 75% of employees have to take walks outside to get away from the distractions, even saying they are more likely to leave their jobs.
Collaboration is even more difficult in an open concept workplace, with employees using the main office work space as a conference room. Additionally, there aren't enough quiet spaces—break rooms and conference rooms—for employees to gather.
SEE: Comparison chart: Enterprise collaboration tools (Tech Pro Research)
The report emphasizes the importance of employee satisfaction, with 96% of executives seeing employee productivity as necessary for overall financial performance; however, a clear disconnect exists between senior leaders and employees in open concept offices.
Executives aren't seeing—or hearing, rather—the problem, as they are experiencing the open concept floor plan from the comfort of their private offices. In fact, the survey found more than half of executives say employees have all the tools they need to prevent office distractions. Employees, however, claim that this is not true, with only 19% saying they are able to mitigate noise.
If these environmental challenges were addressed, companies would find more success. Companies that take measures to acknowledge and solve for noise and distractions have a stronger revenue growth and less turnover, according to the report. With a 10% revenue growth, companies that give workers tools to find a quiet office space to focus also take action in addressing other issues like information overload and pressure. Open concept offices often make employees feel overwhelmed by the amount of information swirling around them, as well as pressure to stay connected and engaged to surrounding coworkers.
However, millennials are able to operate more successfully in an open setting than other generations, mainly because their careers started in one. Even though millennials are able to work in a distracting atmosphere, they don't necessarily enjoy it. In fact, the survey mentioned 77% of millenials find the layout to negatively impact their wellness, with 89% urging companies to address the problems and find solutions. If companies want to be successful, employees need to be productive.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- Open concept work spaces are decreasing employee productivity, wellness, and success.
- Executives aren't seeing or solving for the problem of distractions in open work environments, hurting the companies' growth.
- 10 ways to be a good neighbor in open office environments (TechRepublic)
- Logitech unveils Rally, a modular video conferencing system for large meeting spaces (ZDNet)
- Microsoft Teams: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- How much time do we waste on conference calls? (ZDNet)
- Download a free trial to discover Proactive Network Monitoring (TechRepublic)
Macy Bayern has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.