Perils of the Open Office Study

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Gen Z Says They Are Most Productive When Working Around Noise; Baby Boomers Say “SHHHH!” They Need Quiet to Get Work Done

But the Biggest Open Office Distraction? Your Colleagues

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – May 13, 2019 – More than half of Gen Z (55 percent) and Millennials (56 percent) say they want open offices, despite the associated distractions, according to a new study from Future Workplace commissioned by unified communications company Plantronics, Inc. (“Poly”) (NYSE: PLT). The findings highlight how the four generations at work today think about their workplace environments, including what drives productivity, how they function in the office and how they handle distraction.

“When you consider how many different workstyles and different generations are thrown together in one place, it’s no wonder that almost everyone reports being distracted at work,” said Amy Barzdukas, CMO and Executive Vice President of Poly. “It’s equally clear that the right mix of technology and environment can reduce distraction and improve productivity – and that is what employees are asking for.”

Among the findings:

People of all ages would love working in offices – if only they didn’t have noisy co-workers. Loud talkers are among the greatest perils of life in the office.

  • Nearly all (99 percent) employees report they get distracted while working at their personal workspace.
  • More than half say that distractions make it tough to listen or be heard on calls (51 percent) and impact ability to focus (48 percent).
  • Co-workers are to blame: Seventy-six percent of all employees surveyed said their biggest distraction is a co-worker talking loudly on the phone, and 65 percent say it’s a co-worker talking nearby.
  • Ninety-three percent are frustrated, at least occasionally, due to distractions during a phone or video call.

And yet, Gen Z and Millennials still prefer the open office, likely because they say they’re productive in noisy environments and tend to collaborate more than other generations.

  • Half of workers prefer an open workplace floor plan, and the younger they are, the more they want it – 55 percent of Gen Z and 56 percent of Millennials prefer open offices compared to 47 percent of Gen X and 38 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • More than half of Gen Z (52 percent) say they are most productive when they were working around noise or talking with others; 60 percent of Baby Boomers say they’re most productive when it’s quiet.
  • Twenty percent of Gen Z spend at least half their day on a telephone, video or multi-party call, while only 7 percent of Baby Boomers do the same.

“Gen Z is bringing millions of people into the global workforce, and our research finds that they have very different working styles compared to previous generations,” said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace. “We now have four generations working under one roof, which forces companies to reconsider traditional definitions of what makes a productive office environment and how their employees can best collaborate with each other.”

Compared to their elders, Gen Z and Millennials are better able to deal with distractions.

  • Thirty-five percent of Gen Z use headphones to deal with distraction, while only 16 percent of Baby Boomers do the same.
  • About four in ten Gen Z and Millennials relocate to comfortable spaces such as a couch or cushioned chairs to work. On the flipside, more than half of Baby Boomers only work at their primary workspace.
  • Three times as many Boomers than Gen Z workers admit to not finding a solution to their open office distractions.

Notably, the survey results show that nearly three in four people would work in the office more – and be more productive – if employers would do more to reduce workplace distractions, providing a clear opportunity for IT, HR, and Facilities to collaborate. Nine out of 10 respondents say they get frustrated by distractions on phone or video calls and the majority of employees who rely on phone and video conferencing during the day say that distractions could be minimized with better technology (56 percent) and the elimination of background noise (56 percent). More than half of employees say that their organization can reduce office distractions by establishing quiet spaces or zones, setting guidelines on appropriate noise levels and changing the office layout.

For more information about the study and for a copy of an eBook on managing distraction in the open office, visit this page. Poly offers products and services that help companies optimize collaboration in open office environments. For more information, visit

Research Methodology

Research findings are based on a global survey conducted by Savanta across US, Canada, Spain, UK, Germany, France, China, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, and India between March 18th – 26th, 2019. For this survey, 5,150 respondents were asked general questions to explore office dynamics, distractions, and benefits at their corporate office. The study targeted employees who work three days minimum in a corporate office environment and at organizations of different sizes. All panelists have passed a double opt-in process and complete on average 300 profiling data points prior to taking part in surveys.

About Poly

Plantronics, Inc. (“Poly”) (NYSE: PLT) is a global communications company that powers meaningful human connection and collaboration. Poly combines legendary audio expertise and powerful video and conferencing capabilities to overcome the distractions, complexity and distance that make communication in and out of the workplace challenging. Poly believes in solutions that make life easier when they work together and with our partners’ services. Our headsets, software, desk phones, audio and video conferencing, analytics and services are used worldwide and are a leading choice for every kind of workspace. For more information visit

Poly, the propeller design, and the Poly logo are trademarks of Plantronics, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

About Future Workplace

Future Workplace is an HR Advisory and Research firm educating HR leaders on what’s next in transforming and re-imagining the Human Resources function. Future Workplace operates the Future Workplace Network, a consortium of global companies who come together to anticipate and plan for disruptive changes in their companies, industries, and geographic markets. Future Workplace also manages, a portal sharing the latest research, articles and blogs on future of work.