Pop quiz. How many of the following do you overhear on a weekly basis:
- Personal phone calls
- Office gossip
- Team meetings
- Just-stopping-by chats
- Coworkers listening to music
- Receptionists taking calls
If your answer is two or more, chances are you probably work in an open office environment.
For those of you who work at a company that has an open office floor plan, you are aware of the many benefits. It provides a cost-effective office layout, allowing companies to fill spaces with more employees than a row of private offices. The opportunities for collaboration and innovation are endless, creating a sense of community that can’t be replicated in a closed and divided floor plan.
Open offices can foster a strong company culture and an environment of innovation and collaboration. Yet, I’m sure every open office employee has wondered, “Am I really being productive here?”
A recent Steelcase Study shows 41% of workers cannot concentrate easily in their office environment, with the average person losing 86 minutes per day to distractions. That’s no small number. Imagine the innovations your company and its employees could achieve (not to mention the financial benefits) with an open office layout if you could get those 86 minutes back!
It all comes down to workplace distractions.
An interrupted workflow can usually be traced back to a ringing phone, a boisterous team meeting, or a friendly chat happening several cubicles away. The Gensler Workplace Productivity Survey found that almost 70% of office workers are dissatisfied by the noise levels in their workspace. Additionally in a recent CareerBuilder survey, when office workers were asked what their top productivity blocker was 42% said office gossip, 24% said noisy co-workers and 23% said co-workers dropping by.
When faced with the seemingly impossible task of balancing company culture and employee productivity, employers have a few different options:
- Change the space. Some companies are creating designated spaces for collaboration around the office—additional conference rooms, brainstorming zones etc. – for employees to take their group conversations and noise distractions out of the central office area.
- Change the methods. Others are moving their conversations to the virtual frontier, opting to share ideas through unified communications products. More and more offices are turning to Microsoft or Cisco products for digital collaboration.
- Change the sound. People don’t usually think of sound as a problem they can fix, but we’re seeing a trend towards noise management to eliminate distractions. Many offices are bringing in sound masking technology to cover up noise and make the environment more conducive to productivity.
One thing is clear: most open offices are great for company culture and attracting potential workers looking for a modern office environment, but not-so-great for productivity.
For employers who don’t want to choose between the two, the range of office technology is growing—from productivity pods to video conferencing tools to sound masking— distractions can be managed without losing the creative thinking that makes a company unique and innovative.
Image source: kcmsolutions
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Christopher Calisi is the CEO of Cambridge Sound Management, a provider of sound masking solutions that help reduce noise distractions and protect speech privacy. Calisi leads the strategic direction of the company, specifically its expansion into new vertical markets including corporate, healthcare and government. For more information, visit cambridgesound.com.