Trends in American work productivity

| June 5, 2013

It’s five past nine a.m. and you’re sitting down to work. Then your coworkers stop by your cubicle to share weekend stories or ask for your help fixing the coffee machine. After chatting with them, checking in with your boss, and answering a slew of emails and IMs, it’s time for an hour and a half meeting, which turns into two hours. By that time it’s practically lunchtime,  and even though half of the workday’s over, you actually haven’t produced much.

Where does the workday go? What are the biggest detriments to work productivity? What type of setting do you want to work in? A survey by and Harris Interactive created the Office Workplace Productivity study to investigate this issue.

Workplace infographic

Common Detriments to Work Productivity

Quiet Office Courtesy Sign

A reminder could be helpful to ensure a quiet environment.

Workplaces might as well have ‘do not disturb’ signs hanging up. Most people point fingers at noisy colleagues as the biggest distraction. This is characterized, as one employee said, as, “A very, very noisy environment, and many, many interruptions from people either passing or expressing themselves very loudly.” 40 % of respondents also describe impromptu visits from coworkers to their work spaces as disruptive to their workday. Those two-hour meetings? Nearly a quarter of respondents (24%) spend more time in meetings talking about their work than actually working. Furthermore, there are all the devices that people turn to in place of face-to-face communication. 46% say that, even though they sit close to their coworkers, they mostly communicate with them through email, IM, or the phone. Though these may be necessary interactions to discuss projects, this diverts attention away from producing work.

Seat Location

When it comes to seat location preferences, an overwhelming 86% of all respondents prefer to and are most productive when they work alone. This could mean anything from sitting in a remote desk to a personal desk. Also surprising is the amount of people who prefer working on-site at the office or in their personal workspace (63%) than working from home (29%). Unsurprisingly, more than a third of respondents (38%) would rather take on more work, sit next to someone who eats loudly, or have a longer commute than sit next to their boss.

Office Layout

The demographical statistics of workplace preferences are fascinating. Even though loud coworkers are the biggest distraction, over one quarter (27%) prefer an “open room” or “newsroom” setting, especially younger adults. Single people or those who have never been married (3%) are more likely to prefer work in a cubicle with all of those coworkers than those who are married (30%). Men are more likely to want to work in a cubicle with other coworkers than women (28%). Those reasons weren’t explicitly stated, these statistics may infer to groups of people who have demonstrated interest in building relationships with coworkers.

Most people don’t spend five days at their workday without speaking to each other. Collaborating, conceptualizing, and reporting to people are all part of the workday.

Though most people prefer to work alone, it's good to have someone nearby to chat with.

Though most people prefer to work alone, it’s good to have someone nearby to chat with.


Category: New Products, Office courtesy

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