If employees need to wear headphones to avoid distractions, has collaboration really been improved?
A recent study found that over half of employees regularly use headphones in the office in order to concentrate. Some are even coming into the office earlier just to have a few hours of focused work before the office fills up.
The open-office culture promotes collaboration, team building, and gaining valuable information from the co-workers sitting around them. It is a more cost-effective way to design an office. However, there is a major downside. Open-offices are not always conducive for creative or deep thought work that are required from the rapidly growing, knowledge workers employee base. Often, to complete certain tasks and be productive, these knowledge workers find it hard to focus in this type of work environment.
What are these distractions costing your company?
Should workers have to wear headphones just to overcome poorly designed workspaces? About 70 percent of employees admit to feeling distracted in their work environment. Think about what you pay each of these employees who are getting distracted multiple times a day.
Where your employees are positioned is a major factor to consider. Those sitting near heavy traffic areas or where people congregate will constantly be distracted. Thoughtful space planning can minimize some of these distractions.
Keep the following things in mind when designing your space:
- Avoid having workstations near conference rooms doors – If the group in the conference room aren’t done early or go over their time, the next group will be standing outside the door waiting to get in. This is also the place where people stay and chat before going their separate ways.
- Avoid having one main aisle/ Consider how people will be moving through the area?
- Avoid having workstations near breakrooms?
- Can you separate public from private spaces?
- Add sound masking
There is a fear that wearing headphones most of the time, will be interpreted as being antisocial, uncommunicative, or not engaged. But, always being available to your co-workers means that you are always on the verge of a distraction. Recovering from interruptions takes longer than you think. It can take over 20 minutes to get back into the flow of the task you had been working on.
Your Office is Unique
What works best for your company may be different than another.
- Understand the tasks your employees spend most of their time
- Determine which tasks are most important?
- Create separate spaces for collaboration and quiet work
- Get feedback
- Be open to change if the space or layout stops working.
Remember, your employees are the ones doing the work and may have ideas that you haven’t considered.
While the idea of constant collaboration and access is good in theory, the reality is those that need to focus and produce need a zone that is distraction free. If the only way to get quality work done is to create a barrier between others, maybe it’s time to design the work environment differently.