Open offices and shared workspaces are all the rage right now, but the noise and distraction caused by this type of work environment may be harming worker productivity and reducing their workplace satisfaction.

In a survey of 600 non-executive employees, Oxford Economics and Plantronics found that 53 percent of employees said that ambient noise reduced their satisfaction and productivity.

About 40 percent of employees are distracted enough that they take steps to drown out the noise, steps like wearing headphones.

The impact of workplace noise

Ambient noise is disruptive and can reduce employee focus. If what’s going on in the office is interesting enough (or loud enough) it might completely distract employees from their tasks.

That distraction can quickly lead to employee dissatisfaction. A study by the University of California Irvine found that people report significantly higher stress, frustration, and pressure after only 20 minutes of interrupted performance. They perceive their workloads as bigger and the tasks as requiring more effort.

Distraction isn’t just hurting workers, it’s costing businesses money. In 2010, a study by Workplace Option found that distracted workers cost American businesses an estimated $650 billion annually.

So noise and interruptions can make employees less happy and less productive, which costs businesses money. What can employers do to solve this issue?

Solutions to the workplace noise problem

Perhaps the most obvious answer is a return to the individual office environment. Rather than forcing workers into co-working spaces, create dedicated space for each worker. Being able to close a door on distractions has powerful psychological symbolism, in addition to physically blocking noise.

Budgets and square footage may make it impossible to give everyone in your company their own office. But outside the box solutions can make a difference.

  1. Create quiet spaces – dedicate a conference room as a quite space for employees to work. Just like a reading room in a library, this is a place where employees can work without the distraction of people talking or music playing.
  1. Allow employees to wear headphones – some offices try to encourage idea sharing by prohibiting employees from wearing headphones at work. But everyone needs uninterrupted time. Allowing employees to wear headphones can help them create quite space even in a shared office.
  1. Rent additional office space – executive office suites can provide an expansion to your existing office space without the overhead of renting a new building. These turn-key office solutions enable employees to work in their own offices, distraction free. They also offer the flexibility to rent more space when needed, or scale back when things slow down.If an employee has a particularly demanding project on deck, a quiet office away from the hurly-burly of everyday demands might be exactly what they need to get the job done.