Recently, in “Is small business worker productivity declining? Noise may be the culprit,” I looked at the effect of noise on worker productivity. Underscoring the impact of noise on productivity is a “2013 U.S. Workplace Survey” conducted by design and architecture firm Gensler in which 69% of survey participants indicated that they are dissatisfied with noise levels at their primary workspace. The Gensler survey found that overall workplace performance in 2013 dropped 6% since 2008 when the firm conducted its previous workplace survey.
Now new survey results indicate that when it comes to noise and distractions in today’s open office environments workers and management may not see eye to eye. A study conducted by Oxford Economics “When the Walls Come Down: How Smart Companies are Rewriting the Rules of the Open Workplace” funded by Plantronics examined what workers want from their office environments, and what managers need to do to enable the highest productivity and satisfaction from their teams. The study included 600 executives and 600 employees from a range of industries around the world.
The study found that the ability to focus without interruptions is a top priority for employees when it comes to office design. Yet only 39% of executives say ambient noise affects their employees’ productivity and just 33% say loud colleagues are an issue. As a result, the study found that very few companies have taken meaningful steps to address the problem. In office construction, noise is an afterthought and executives overestimate employees’ ability to drown it out with the tools available to them.
Employees cite other workplace challenges
The study highlighted that above all workers value getting work done and that interruptions are having an impact on productivity. Other challenges impacting productivity and work/life balance include:
- Technology integration is a work in progress: Employees are expected to be connected to the office all the time, but only 40% say the devices they use at home integrate seamlessly with their work tools. The survey found that 65% of employees say they prefer a single device for their personal and work lives, rather than different devices for each.
- Too much connectivity could lead to burnout: Mobile technology and pressure from colleagues drive constant connectivity. Furthermore, more than one-third of employees say they use their tech devices primarily out of habit or compulsion, fear of missing out, or social pressure.
- Always available: Among executives, 26% say they expect employees to be available after hours always or frequently, but 47% of employees say such availability is expected.
Help employees be more productive
The report lists the following recommendations for employers to help their employees work more productively:
- Begin a dialogue with employees about what is working and what needs to change regarding office design, working remotely, and technology use.
- Ensure employees have the tools and devices needed to work from anywhere.
- Give employees the quiet time, spaces, and tools required to conduct focused work.
- Encourage everyone to disconnect after hours to find a balance between work and life.
Giving your small business employees the right tools also may mean getting them noise-canceling headsets so that they can listen to music or white noise to cancel out distracting noise around them. Find Plantronics headsets to suit your team at https://www.plantronics.com/us/solutions/small-medium-business/.