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Telecommuters safe from office noise distractions

The open-concept office is my personal hell.

Sure, it’s great to be a part of a team. Working with a creative, dynamic bunch of people can be fun and rewarding. But that same type of people can differ among themselves how to stir the creative juices among them.

Or when it’s appropriate to do screaming in cubicle hell

Imagine, if you will, coming into the office bright and early Monday morning, only to be met with a flurry of foam darts.
Your inbox is full and you’re listening to a Nerf gun war.

Or the chatter about the Cat Lady’s weekend at the vet.

The lunch crew that has to decide where they’re going before their butts are even warm in their chairs.

There are headphones for that, I know. And sometimes when I’m home, I like to have music playing to help me focus and write.

In the corporate situation, though, headphones can be construed as rude since the Cat Lady could be laying out the plans for your next great project but you aren’t listening.

The open-concept office, also known as cubicle hell, is the reason many of us prefer telecommuting.

And now we have research to back up our whining … er, complaints.

No private conversations

According to research by Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear at the University of Sydney, 30 per cent of cubicle office employees (and 25 per cent of workers in unpartitioned space) are dissatisfied with the noise levels in their area.

Lack of sound privacy — the inability to control what you hear or who hears you — ticks off 60 per cent of cubicle workers.

graph of office workers complaints

The Harvard Business Review story considers previous research by Kim and de Dear.

“The loss of productivity due to noise distraction … was doubled in open-plan offices compared to private offices, and the tasks requiring complex verbal process” — the most important tasks, writes Sarah Green — “were more likely to be disturbed than relatively simple or routine tasks.”

Fast Company senior editor Jason Fiefer contends that he works slower and gives lower-quality production in an open office space.

“I’ve been interrupted at least a dozen times trying to write this, and I’m only a few paragraphs in,” he says of his piece on cubicles and productivity.”

He cites a University of California, Irvine, study that showed employees in cubicles receive 29 per cent more interruptions than those in private offices. Employees who are interrupted frequently report nine per cent higher rates of exhaustion.

We know from earlier OnConference blog posts that telecommuters are engaged with their team and more productive than their in-office colleagues. They also produce higher quality work.

So it’s hard to believe some companies and executives still need convincing that telecommuting can get help them achieve their business goals with better work, improved efficiency and lower costs.

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