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What Gen Z and other workers want from the work environment

81% of ANZ workers believe open plan is important to productivity and engagement, new research reveals

  • Despite this, workplace distractions affect 99% of local employees
  • Younger generations better at using technology to avoid distraction

More than half (57 percent) of workers across Australia and New Zealand still prefer open plan offices over privacy-oriented floor plans, and 81 percent believe this working style is important to their productivity and engagement.

A new global studyfrom Future Workplace commissioned by unified communications company Plantronics, Inc. (“Poly”) (NYSE: PLT) highlights how different generations value workplace environments, what drives productivity and how they handle distraction.

“Workforces in Australia and New Zealand know that collaboration is a key component to success and are supportive of the open plan layout. Simultaneously, however, most are seeking opportunities to work alone or disengage to avoid distraction,” comments Andy Hurt, Managing Director of Poly Australia and New Zealand. “We all work in different ways and have different productivity drivers. It’s clear that communication and collaboration technology can play a role in helping to establish a working environment that can cater for the varying needs of today’s multi-generational and varied workforce.”

Among the findings:

Despite open plan being the office of choice in ANZ,distractions remain a key cause of frustration for workers of all ages.

  • Virtually all (99 percent) employees report being distracted while working
  • More than one in ten report ‘always’ being distracted and a third (29 percent) get distracted ‘very often’.
  • Half of ANZ respondents said that distractions make it difficult to listen or be heard on calls in an open plan environment and impact their ability to focus (51 percent).
  • Almost all (93 percent) feel frustrated, at least occasionally, due to distractions during a phone or video call.

Co-workers are causing the most disruption, and employees are seeking refuge through technology and quiet places.

  • Almost all (94 percent) of ANZ employees surveyed experienced distraction from a co-worker talking nearby or a co-worker talking loudly on the phone (93 percent), and two thirds (66 percent) admitted to being distracted by a colleague eating.
  • Headphones (51 percent) are the leading choice for workers looking to avoid distraction, meanwhile 28 percent of affected workers will seek out a quieter place in the office.
  • Worryingly, almost a quarter have not found an effective solution (23 percent).

Notably, the survey results show that nearly three in four people would work in the office more – and be more productive – if employers would do more to reduce workplace distractions, providing a clear opportunity for IT, HR, and Facilities to collaborate.

The majority of ANZ employees who rely on phone and video conferencing during the day say that distractions could be minimised with better technology (58 percent) and the elimination of background noise (53 percent). More than half of ANZ employees say that their organisation can reduce office distractions by establishing quiet spaces or zones, setting guidelines on appropriate noise levels and changing the office layout and allowing for flexible work arrangements.

Globally, the research showed some clear generational differences amongst workers when it comes to workplace preferences.

  • More than half of Gen Z respondents (52 percent) say they are most productive when they are working around noise or talking with others, while 60 percentof Baby Boomers say they’re most productive when it’s quiet.
  • Also, 20 percentof Gen Z spend at least half their day on a telephone, video or multi-party call, while only seven percentof Baby Boomers do the same.

Compared to their elders, Gen Z and Millennials are better able to deal with distractions.

  • 35 percent of Gen Z us headphones to deal with distraction, while only 16 percent of Baby Boomers do the same.
  • About four in tenGen Z and Millennials relocate to comfortable spaces such as a couch or cushioned chairs to work. On the flipside, more than half of Baby Boomers only work at their primary workspace.
  • Three times as many Boomers than Gen Z workers admit to not finding a solution to their open office distractions.

“Gen Z is bringing millions of people into the global workforce, and our research finds that they have very different working styles compared to previous generations,” said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace. “We now have four generations working under one roof, which forces companies to reconsider traditional definitions of what makes a productive office environment and how their employees can best collaborate with each other.”

Research Methodology

Research findings are based on a global survey conducted by Savanta across US, Canada, Spain, UK, Germany, France, China, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, and India between March 18th – 26th, 2019. For this survey, 5,150 respondents were asked general questions to explore office dynamics, distractions, and benefits at their corporate office. The study targeted employees who work three days minimum in a corporate office environment and at organisations of different sizes. All panelists have passed a double opt-in process and complete on average 300 profiling data points prior to taking part in surveys.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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