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Noisy office? Millennials want a quiet office believe it or not

When asked to think of a modern office environment which would be appealing to millennials, a lot of people will think of a large open-plan office filled with technology and sleek, minimal or quirky furnishings. However, this preconception of open, collaborative working without walls isn’t necessarily what young people want in reality. This style of workplace lends itself to a noisy office environment which can actually be distracting and harmful to productivity, regardless of your age. Everyone wants to do their best in work, and it turns out a quiet office may be more beneficial to employees’ happiness and output than an abundance of mod cons and gimmicks.

Open plan and millennials

CPS_26Initially, the move away from personal offices and cubicles was a way for workplaces to save space and fit in more employees into the same area. However, the open plan office structure was also soon being touted to have benefits such as encouraging better communication, flow of information, innovation and flexibility. These attributes are highly valued in a modern working environment and with millennial workers, making millennials and open plan offices seemingly go hand-in-hand.

Noisy office

In reality, open plan offices’ advantages aren’t so clear cut. Research has questioned whether the structuring does give rise to benefits and has also highlighted a major annoyance that comes with open plan: noise. It is inevitable that with so many people in an unobstructed space, ambient noise levels will increase. When surveying employees, ambient noise – including ringing phones and background chatter – is continually cited as a distraction to working optimally.

This noise concern is found across age groups. Research from Oxford Economics, which surveyed over 1200 workers across several professions who worked in open plan offices – of which around half were millennials – found similar disquiet. The group found that 53% of employees stated office noise reduced their productivity and satisfaction; what’s more, 59% also felt they didn’t have the tools to filter out distractions at work. Further studies have found an even stronger dislike of open plan offices. For example, one found ratings of noise-related reductions in work performance are doubled in open plan offices.  

Strike the balance

CPS_30As with most things in life, the consensus seems to be that it is key to strike a balance. You, or your interior designer, should evaluate and consider what your individual business would benefit from. For example, if collaboration and teamwork are key to the business, open plan layouts may indeed suit. However, if work is predominantly individual, technical and requires high concentration levels, then a more segmented layout may be appreciated more by your employees.

Different individuals and projects will also benefit from a variety of settings, so perhaps the best solution is to provide a range of areas. Open plan desk areas can be great for general usage and collaboration whereas sound-dampening pods, cubicles and individual meeting rooms could be created elsewhere for quiet working.

Whatever design choices you make, it is important you listen to your employees and don’t assume open plan will suit everyone, including millennials. Although the popularity of open plan does not seem to be abating, research suggests you should also aim to provide quiet spaces for optimum employee productivity and satisfaction.


CPS Interiors work with your business to find the best interior design solutions for your needs. Our design experts specialise in commercial settings and can provide entire office fit outs or just help you to update and optimise your current space. Our comprehensive, professional interior services can be utilised by clients across the areas of Leicester, Nottingham and Derby and can help you get the most from your employees and business. For more information about our products or services, get in touch with our friendly team today.


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