Listen Up: Survey Reveals Contentious Attitudes Towards Noise in the Workplace

How do you cope with noise in the workplace?
How do you cope with noise in the workplace?

It’s what every business centre and coworking operator dreams about: A set of criteria detailing exactly what clients want from their workplace, straight from the horse’s mouth. And preferably a picture too.

You’re in luck. Because the forward-thinking team over at pod-space has carried out a survey that aims to answer some of these all-important questions, such as: Exactly what do employees want in their workplace? Which particular design features would encourage more motivation? Is this style of furniture in or out? And what can workspace operators to do help boost employee morale?

1,023 UK workers were polled by pod-space, a company specialising in alternative workplaces and garden office ‘pods’, and the results are pretty revealing.

Background buzz

Diving into the data, we came across a number of indicators that throw the spotlight on noise in the workplace. This is a contentious topic that has the potential to seriously shake up the world of shared workspace.

One of the questions we found most interesting was this: Which modern convenience would fuel creativity and productivity in the workplace? Among the multiple choice answers, modern gadgets like interactive whiteboards and games consoles were up for grabs. Yet the most popular item by far was a coffee machine (40%) followed by a shared music system (28%).

Interestingly, the games console finished last with 10% of votes.

Coffee and music over gaming? This suggests that there is little room in the workplace for lifestyle products like games consoles, yet it seems that workers do value the background buzz that comes from music, and possibly the social interaction and screen breaks that come with making coffee (and no doubt the caffeine kick too).

Generational split?

This raises the question of acoustics. Particularly so when you compare these answers against those supplied with regard to office partitioning.

It’s an interesting point. The survey shows that over one third of workers want to use partitioning, possibly to create privacy or to block distracting sounds. Yet, a shared music system appeals to more than a quarter of respondents. This could represent a clash of generations, or cultures, or simply differences in personality. Either way, it’s a potential problem in shared workspaces.

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We asked Michelle Lord, co-founder of pod-space, for her take on the issue:

“I’m not sure there is a ‘one size fits all’ solution to this issue,” she said. “Employers and those responsible for workspace planning need to be sensitive to the diverse requirements of their staff. As the differing opinions of our survey respondents suggest, the most important thing is to listen to the needs of staff and collaborate with them to achieve the best possible solution for the company and its employees. There are many variables, so sensitivity is key.”

The partitioning split

Digging deeper into the topic of partitioning, pod-space’s results revealed that a combined 52% of respondents don’t want any partitioning in the workplace. Yet, 36% wanted some form of partitioning, either at eye level or complete floor-to-ceiling walls.

In our age of collaborative workspace and given the explosive growth of coworking, these findings are indeed worth noting. It could suggest that, deep down, privacy is still highly important to workers – and the ability to retreat into a quiet space remains a valuable asset in the workplace.

“As open plan offices are now commonplace, workers are trying to achieve the right balance between being a productive individual and also being a team player with good working relationships,” Michelle commented. “Both enhance the enjoyment of the workplace, so getting the right level of partitioning is just one of the important factors in workspace planning.”

What do you think is the answer? Check back for more analysis of pod-space’s survey tomorrow, when the question of home-working is thrown into the spotlight. One thing we can say is, perhaps Yahoo was right all along

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