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Workplaces’ biggest distractions

May 23, 2019

By Jason Rowe, courtesy SBAM Approved Partner ASE

More than half of Gen Z (55%) and Millennials (56%) say they want open offices, despite the associated distractions, according to a new study from Future Workplace commissioned by unified communications company Plantronics, Inc. (“Poly” – formerly Plantronics and Polycom) (NYSE: PLT). The findings highlight how the four generations at work today think about their workplace environments, including what drives productivity, how they function in the office, and how they handle distraction.

Among the findings:

People of all ages would love working in offices – if only they didn’t have noisy co-workers. Loud talkers are among the greatest nuisances in the office.  

  • Nearly all (99%) employees report they get distracted while working at their personal workspace.

  • More than half say that distractions make it tough to listen or be heard on calls (51%) and impact ability to focus (48%).

  • Co-workers are to blame: 76% percent of all employees surveyed said their biggest distraction is a co-worker talking loudly on the phone, and 65% say it’s a co-worker talking nearby.

  • 93% are frustrated, at least occasionally, due to distractions during a phone or video call.

And yet, Gen Z and Millennials still prefer the open office, likely because they say they’re productive in noisy environments and tend to collaborate more than other generations.

  • Half of workers prefer an open workplace floor plan, and the younger they are, the more they want it – 55% of Gen Z and 56% of Millennials prefer open offices compared to 47% of Gen X and only 38% of Baby Boomers.

  • More than half of Gen Z (52%) say they are most productive when they were working around noise or talking with others; 60% of Baby Boomers say they’re most productive when it’s quiet.

  • 20% of Gen Z spend at least half their day on a telephone, video, or multi-party call, while only 7% of Baby Boomers do the same.

“Gen Z is bringing millions of people into the global workforce, and our research finds that they have very different working styles compared to previous generations,” said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace. “We now have four generations working under one roof, which forces companies to reconsider traditional definitions of what makes a productive office environment and how their employees can best collaborate with each other.”

Compared to their elders, Gen Z and Millennials are better able to deal with distractions.

  • 35% of Gen Z use headphones to deal with distraction, while only 16% of Baby Boomers do the same.

  • About four in ten Gen Z and Millennials relocate to comfortable spaces such as a couch or cushioned chairs to work. On the flipside, more than half of Baby Boomers only work at their primary workspace.

  • Three times as many Boomers than Gen Z workers admit to not finding a solution to their open office distractions.

More than half of employees say that their organization can reduce office distractions by establishing quiet spaces or zones, setting guidelines on appropriate noise levels, and changing the office layout.  When thinking about office design, be sure to consider the varying preferences of the four generations currently in the workforce.

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