An overwhelming number of respondents find it annoying when colleagues talk to you while you are concentrating. In fact, almost half of the respondents find this kind of disturbance annoying (44 %).
36 % of respondents find colleagues talking on the phone while sitting at their desks annoying. The same goes for colleagues who talk about non-work-related subjects which also annoys 36 % of the respondents. As such, noise and disturbance seem to be common sources of irritation at the open office.
Alf Astrup is Business Unit Director for Technopolis Norway and Sweden and rents offices to over 100 companies at Technopolis Fornebu in Oslo, Norway. Astrup has extensive experience when it comes to office culture, planning and layout.
– It is important to carefully consider the different purposes and needs the office should accommodate. Once you have this insight, it is much easier to tailor your workspace to the employees and their work habits and consider whether there is a need for different work areas, such as smaller workspaces or larger areas. At Technopolis we believe that the workspace is more than squares, and facilitating a dynamic workplace where cooperation and social interaction is encouraged is key, says Astrup.
The survey reveals other sources of irritation as well. Loud laughter, for instance, annoys 30 % of respondents, and 17 % are annoyed by colleagues eating at their desks. Perhaps you find loud keypads annoying? You’re not alone, as 21 % of respondents also hate the sound of loud typing.
– In addition to the needs of the company as a whole, it is important to remember that the office is made up of individuals with different needs. It is important to take this into account when designing office spaces, says Astrup.
Youngsters like the open office the most
One interesting find relates to the age group 18-34, as 15 % of this age group responded that their focus is actually improved in the open office. This is a stark contrast to their older counterparts as only 2 % of the age groups 35-54 and 55+ responded that their focus is improved in the open office.
The age group 55+ seems to be the least in favor of the open office, as 39 % of respondents do not like anything at all about the open office.
The 55+ age group is also annoyed by conversations on non-work-related subjects much more than their younger counterparts, as 55 % of the age group rate this as the most annoying thing about open offices. As such, a generational divide is clearly visible through these numbers.
– The younger generation might have a different experience of noise in their surroundings at work. Whatever the reason might be, it can be helpful to think about these things when you choose or plan your office, says Astrup.
Quick access to information and casual chitchat
Despite this, office-working Norwegians also believe there are several benefits when working in an open office. Casual chitchat with your colleagues, for instance, is what the respondents like the most about open offices (32 %).
– Most of us want to work undisturbed, but we also need some informal chitchat with our colleagues during our workday. I think that a good working environment consists of the little things. Without informal chats by the coffee machine building good relationships at work is very difficult. And this is key if you want people to come to the office, says Astrup.
In addition to informal chatting with colleagues, quick access to information (21 %) and the opportunity to get to know your colleagues well (14 %) were among the other factors the respondents liked the most about open offices.
About the survey:
• The survey was conducted by YouGov for Technopolis.
• 1000 employed people who work wholly or partly in offices outside the home have completed a questionnaire.
• The survey was conducted in weeks 35-39 of 2023.