For their study, researchers surveyed over 1200 senior executives and non-executive employees about their workplace arrangements. While 53 percent of employees reported feeling less satisfied and less productive when they had to work through ambient noise, only 35 percent of executives felt the same way.
The disconnect between the perceptions of management and the people they employ was evident in other areas as well. Just 41 percent of employees said they have the necessary tools to filter out distractions, while 63 percent of executives felt that their employees had everything they needed. Fifty-two percent of employees described work/life balance as being very important to them. When employers were asked the same question about their team, only 34 percent of executives said that balance was a priority for their employees.
These discrepancies aren’t too surprising when you compare the work life of an executive to that of a lower-level employee. The study reveals that a majority of executives are equipped with tools that make it easy to do their jobs outside the office, while less than half of employees can say the same. The most drastic difference between the two groups is their physical workspace. Sixty-two percent of top-level workers have a private office—a privilege granted to just 14 percent of employees.
With so many executives lucky enough to have a quiet space to call their own, it makes sense that minimizing distractions was ranked last on their list of priorities when laying out an office. But when team productivity is at stake, poor office design is bad for everyone. Distractions can have such a negative impact, another study suggests employees may be better off working from home.