Although we live in times of endless technological distraction, American workers still say that old-fashioned office gossip is more distracting and annoying than email, phone calls and weird computer or smartphone noises.
In a recent survey by consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison, 46% of employees said chatty co-workers were the worst distraction in their workplace. Excessive emails came in a distant second place at 18%, and offensive body odors placed third at 9%. Here is the full report:
Talkative co-workers: 46%
Telephone calls: 8%
Ambient noise: 6%
Office design: 5%
Nothing at all: 4%
Jim Greenway, vice president of Lee Hecht Harrison, commented in the survey following its publication, explaining that “Overly talkative co-workers usually have no idea how annoying they are to their colleagues. They simply lack the self-awareness to recognize the signals.”
In some ways, the problem may be getting worse; today, 70% of employees in the U.S. work in open-plan offices, where private offices and cubicles of days past have been replaced with communal workspaces. This shared space can make an irritating ringtone seem like a mild distraction when compared to a co-worker’s relationship drama.
Yet as Greenway clarifies, up to a certain point, office chatter can also serve a useful purpose.
“Serendipitous conversations in the hallway or brief stops by a co-worker’s office or cubicle for some chit-chat can yield tremendous benefits in terms of collaboration, generating new ideas, creating trust and increasing productivity,” he said.
The firm surveyed 848 U.S workers in an online poll conducted in April.