June 18, 2019
Our ability to focus in the workplace faces threats from all directions: loud phone conversations, chatter between colleagues, trilling phones and the sound of shoes clacking down corridors.
More than half of office workers say their work environment is too noisy, and two-thirds of them say the distractions impact their concentration, productivity and creative thinking, according to a new acoustics study by commercial flooring company Interface, Inc.
Workplace noise can also lead to turnover and loss of talent: 5% of respondents says they’ve considered leaving their company because of noise.
The decibels from normal office activity quickly add up, and it can take 15 or 20 minutes to refocus on an activity and get back in the zone of creative thinking and problem solving after an interruption.
Co-workers talking to each other was blamed as the #1 distraction across the board, followed closely by loud phone conversations, according to the Interface study, called “What’s That Sound?”, which surveyed 2,014 adults in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia in late 2018.
Almost half of respondents said it was difficult to concentrate, and more than a quarter said it hurt their productivity while also causing stress and anxiety.
There are remedies.
More employers are creating quiet spaces such as small private offices or phone booths that can be used as needed. Manufacturers are also creating more sound-absorbing materials such as carpeting, sound-absorbing wall coverings and sound baffles.
First and foremost, companies must take a more thoughtful approach to designing an agile workplace by ensuring there is space that supports everyone’s work style. Some teams thrive in open and collaborative environments, but many people also need quiet private space to do solo heads-down work.
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