6 truths about the modern office

Private office spaces leads to more productivity, and remote workers face challenges, according to a study by Olivet Nazarene University.

The pros and cons for companies of moving to a fully remote workforce More companies are moving to a fully remote workforce to save money and make employees happier. But there are challenges to consider.

Apparently, most workers concur with Virginia Woolf, "I need solitude. I need space." A study conducted by Olivet Nazarene University revealed employees with private offices are the happiest (90%) and most productive (83%). 

Conducted in November 2019, the study also suggested that it doesn't necessarily mean that employees are more productive when they work away from coworkers.

SEE: Managing remote workers: A business leader's guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Here are six truths about modern workspaces revealed from the study. 

1. Working remotely does have challenges

More than half surveyed (58%) said they are less productive, with 80% admitting to multitasking, and that distractions are the number one "hardest things about working remotely."

That said, 18% said signing off at the end of a work day was the second most difficult aspect of remote work, followed by collaborating or communicating with coworkers (18%), being accountable (5%), miscommunication (5%) and finding reliable Wi-Fi (4%). 

It's difficult to work with remote coworkers, concluded 42% of respondents, who cited reasons such as as availability (42%), collaboration (25%), different time zones (20%), and miscommunications (13%). 

Being reliant on messenger to interact, rather than in-person, makes one in three feel isolated or lonely.

2. Working from home means clothes are optional

And not everyone who works remotely does so in their PJs; one in three admit to working naked or in their underwear, with 25% saying they dress "in a way that I wouldn't want anyone to see," with the majority describing their home garb as "more casually than I would at work," and a surprising 18% dress while working remotely "the same way I would at work."

3. Open floor plans reign supreme

Back in the office, cubicles are apparently on the outs and have been replaced by open floor plans in 51% of workplaces. As far as productivity goes, in addition to the 83% who are most productive in a private office, 66% prefer an open floor with private offices, 62% weigh in with assigned spaces in an open floor environment, 61% prefer an open floor with no assigned space, and the dated cubicles garnered favor with 60% of respondents.

4. Majority of workers wear headphones while working

Thirty-five percent of workers surveyed cited a quiet location as their No. 1 need for productivity, followed by a dedicated office space (24%), a comfortable chair or desk (22%), a door (8%),  with the remaining 11% voting for "other."

Thanks to the excellent hardware available in most office spaces, 53% said they regularly wear headphones in the office, followed by 40% who use them 25-50% of the time, 28% use them up to 25% of the time, 21% don headphones 50-75% daily, and 11% admitted they have headphones on 75-100% of their day.

While it's unsurprising that 59% of those in headphones listen to music, 21% chose podcasts, 8% listen to audiobooks, 7% listen to "nothing," or "white noise."

5. Chitchat prevails in offices  

Respondents had an average of nine conversations via messaging platforms, and eight face-to-face conversations per day. An estimated 54% use instant messaging platforms (Slack gets a shout-out here), but half say they use it for "more socializing than is appropriate," yet only one in five say it hurts their productivity.

There are conspiracists who weigh in, as 45% surveyed believe messaging platforms are used for surveillance.

SEE: Slack: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

6. Remote workers prefer home offices

Two in five respondents are allowed to work off-site up to a few times per month. When employees do work remotely, 79% opt for working at home (despite potential distractions) rather than choosing a coffee shop or dedicated co-working space. 

When asked "What makes you happiest in your office?" the most popular answers included: Natural light, free drinks (coffee, tea, etc.), comfortable meeting spaces, free snacks and a pet-friendly policy. The top responses for what was disliked most about an office included: "It's too noisy," "there's no privacy," "too many visual distractions,"and  "too little energy."

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