If you work in an open office, what do your colleagues complain about most? Common complaints I've heard include yappy office dogs, the questionable choice of music blaring through the speakers and difficulty finding a quiet place to focus.
All these complaints stem from the same problem: unwanted noise. While these minimalist work spaces reduce visual clutter, open offices tend to have plenty of audible clutter. For many employees, it's a huge issue.
So it's not all surprising that a new study finds the most desirable "perk" at work is noise reduction, The Atlantic's City Lab reports. You heard right. The key to workplace productivity and happiness may simply be more peace and quiet. For those difficult-to-please millennials, the desire for quieter workspaces even trumps free food.
Oxford Economics performed the study. They surveyed 1,200 employees who work in a variety of industries. More than half of those surveyed complained about noise being a constant issue. Millennials complained the loudest. They said they either wear noise-canceling headphones or go looking for quieter spaces where they can focus.
In an unscientific poll of my friends who work in open offices, I find this complaint to be quite common. One friend pointed out that while you can shut your eyes or turn away to block out visual distractions, you can't "turn off" your ears. Unless, of course, you wear those noise-canceling headphones to cover up a distracting conversation with more noise.
An open office isn't necessarily a recipe for disaster. Many companies take the noise issue into account in their design.
Take Shopify, for example. Based on a survey of their own employees, the Ontario-based company discovered their team had an even balance of introverts and extroverts. So their office designers made a point to create a workspace that would serve both groups equally. Shopify's offices incorporate high-backed couches that can be wheeled into a corner to create a quiet space to work. Their offices also have several areas and rooms that invite quiet working. One even looks like an old library, complete with comfy armchairs, dim lights and shelves of books.
Want to instill more peace and quiet into your own office? FastCompany offers 10 solutions to help control activity and noise.