Survey: Nearly 100% of open-office workers are distracted by their coworkers

Some 99% of workers in an open-office plan get distracted at least some of the time, according to a new survey. They may be the worst thing.

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The visceral dislike for open offices is so universal, it’s almost a dark comedy. High-concept architects and designers baited office developers into the concept, telling that it would “increase collaboration,” and oh yeah, by the way, take up less space and be cheaper.

While open offices have some things going for them (they’re certainly… airy and modern) studies have shown they decrease communication between workers. A a well-known Harvard study showed that open offices decreased face-to-face communication between workers by 70%. In an environment where everybody is constantly up in everyone else’s face, people actually tend to shut down to protect themselves.


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Some 99% of workers in an open-office plan get distracted at least some of the time, according to a new survey. Global communications firm Poly surveyed 5,000 office workers across 10 countries.

And 40% of open-plan office workers are always or very often distracted. Almost 50% report an inability to focus while at work.

It’s also easy to lose time to the constant influx of people when working in an open space, with the noise level at a dull roar, people startling you by approaching you from behind, and randoms from other departments stopping by your desk to discuss “Game of Thrones.”

What were the top office distractions? Respondents said the following. Hint: it’s their co-workers.

  1. Loud co-worker on the phone
  2. Office celebrations!
  3. Co-workers talking nearby
  4. Table and video games
  5. Phone ringers or alarms
  6. Pets in the office

For those reasons and more, one in three workers lost one hour or more to distractions every day.

A full 70% say they would be more productive and concentrate better if open-office chaos was cut down.

In that spirit, the open office is also full of people trying to cope with the noise. The most popular was was to hide and search out a quieter place in the office (34%). Others listened to music on headphones (27%), while some wore noise-canceling headphones (19%). A bold 14% wore earplugs, and a wise 12% worked from home.


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Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.