The folks at Bright Spot Strategies have published a really good blog post that features a roundup of the research about workplace noise. Naturally, the concept of the open office (which we’ve blogged about many times) comes under close scrutiny. The result is one of the most balanced and detailed looks we’ve seen at this complex topic.
Lots of Collaboration = Lots of Interruption
The article points to research showing that the collaboration many companies seek to create may indeed speed up the ability of groups to find creative solutions to problems. However, if you dig into the actual findings, the participants in frequently interacting groups felt: “more interrupted, less able to concentrate, and more hurried”. The study only evaluated the speed of idea generation and the speed of idea exchange – not whether the ideas were actually any good. Obviously, the employees involved in the experiment didn’t enjoy the way it made them feel. We suppose that could be a highly motivating factor to come up with a solution (such as finding a different job that isn’t so stressful).
Do Interruptions Help or Hurt?
In a study of Dutch and Russian employees, a work environment with frequent interruptions actually led to an increase in productivity – but at a price. The researchers found that “…interruptions cause people to perform the main task faster while maintaining the level of quality. Participants develop strategies enabling them to deal effectively with the interruptions, while actually over-compensating the potential performance decline. Interruptions do have a negative impact on emotion and well-being, and lead to an increase of effort expenditure, although not to an increase in activation. Thus the improved performance is achieved at the expense of higher psychological costs.”
Solving the Problem
This evidence suggests that employers may be sacrificing long term employee satisfaction for perceived short term gains when they don’t put strategies, technology and furnishings in place to limit interruptions. We’d hate to see more companies experience an increase in their churn rate from employee burnout. It’s time to take proactive steps to keep employees from being stressed with unnecessary distractions! Find out how our privacy panel products can help.