The #1 and #2 distractions in the workplace – other people talking

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The most disruptive office distractions, ranked

Of all the distractions that come with working in an office, the biggest is not the room temperature or the traffic sounds from outside. It’s ourselves.

In a survey commissioned by office-equipment maker Poly and conducted by research firm Future Workplace, 76% of respondents said a co-worker talking loudly on the phone created a moderate, high, or very high level of distraction for them while at work in their primary workspace, making it the most commonly cited disruption in the survey. Noise from a co-worker talking nearby was cited by 65% of respondents.

The sound of coffee being made is a moderate to very high distraction for only 26%, while 46% said they were distracted by pets in the office (which was less than the 53% who reported moderate to very high distractions caused by visiting children).

The global study of designs and distractions in offices surveyed 5,150 employees who work at least three days minimum in a corporate environment.

There’s a growing backlash against open-office plans. Studies have found that open plans lead to decreased face-to-face collaboration and decreased productivity, particularly for creative people. Distractions at work are not just a problem for open offices, though. Only 61% of the survey respondents reported working in an open office, but 98% of everyone surveyed said they get distracted at work.

Here are the most disruptive office distractions, ranked from worst to least worst, based the percentage of respondents who described them as causing moderate to very high distraction levels:

  1. A co-worker talking loudly on the phone
  2. Co-workers talking nearby
  3. Phone rings or alerts
  4. Office celebrations (birthdays, retirement, new babies, etc.)
  5. Nearby group meetings
  6. Visiting children
  7. Team games across the office
  8. Visiting family members (other than children)
  9. Tables games (table tennis, football, video games, etc.)
  10. Pets in the office
  11. Outside sounds (cars, sirens, weather, landscaping work, barking dogs)
  12. A colleague eating
  13. Heating or air conditioning system
  14. Copy machine/printer
  15. Coffee being made

If the noise level in your workplace is harming productivity and well being there is a practical solution that can create privacy immediately at little cost. Stenomask is a noise isolation microphone, that keeps voice communications and transcriptions completely private and silent. It becomes a personal sound booth when used in conjunction with noise cancelling headphones. The U.S. military has been using this technology for over seventy years and it is now finding it’s way into today’s open offices and public spaces. Compatible with computers, phones, tablets and all speech recognition software, it is an affordable solution to a costly problem.

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