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The challenges of noise in the open office

Noise is the largest distraction complaint among office workers.1 With 53% of employees pointing to its effect on reduced productivity,2 and 17% of employees say noise in their office is detrimental to their wellness leading to absenteeism,3 the impact on business performance can be substantial. It disrupts an employee’s ability to focus and communicate, which reduces their performance and, ultimately, your profitability. That’s why an effective noise strategy for the open office is essential.

The top three facts you need to know


94% of employees surveyed in a 2017 global workplace study believe they would get more done in a less noisy environment.2

The single largest employee complaint about noise is nearby conversations, and the most common effect is reduced productivity.4 Given that communicating is how we get work done, it makes sense that conversation is the biggest distraction in an open office. What becomes critical now is to provide our teams with the right tools and create an environment where collaboration and focus work can happen at the same time in the same space.

63% of employees say lack of quiet space for focused work has a negative effect on their productivity, satisfaction and well-being.3

Studies clearly demonstrate that businesses with distracting work environments see higher rates of absenteeism and reports of employee dissatisfaction.3

Managing noise in your office plays a critical role in improving the employee experience, which can only have a positive effect on wellness, engagement and productivity.



54% of executives believe their employees have the tools they need to mitigate noise and distraction in the office, while only 29% of employees agree.3

Before you can fix a problem, you need to accept that one exists. Employees have been trying to alert management to the impact of noise, but management hasn’t fully caught on, mainly because most executives don’t have to deal with noise and distraction in the same way employees do. Studies show that 80% of executives have a private office compared to only 6% of employees.3 Executives can focus on their work from the privacy of their office or on the go. Employees don’t always have that option. A better understanding of how noise affects employees can lead to creating an appropriate environment with the necessary tools to help manage it.

To gain a better understanding of how noise impacts employee workstyles and productivity needs, let’s take a look at your teams — the types of work they perform and how they go about their routines.

1 Plantronics Persona Research, 2017.
2 Plantronics Noise in the Workplace Global Study, 2017.
3 Oxford Economics Study 2018.
4 Alsop, Ronald (2014, September 12). “The Victims of Open Offices are Pushing Back.” BBC, Retrieved from