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When It Comes to Workplace Noise, Millennials Can't Even

A new survey finds that fewer distractions outweigh freebies among young workers.
The launch of TREExOFFICE, a pop-up co-working space in a treehouse, in London in June 2015.
The launch of TREExOFFICE, a pop-up co-working space in a treehouse, in London in June 2015.AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Companies go out of their way to woo workers with freebies and quirky spaces. Coffee and snacks are somewhat standard. Other businesses go bigger, with neon-orange slides that wind between floors or treehouses and ponds on sprawling campuses. But a new survey asks whether those accommodations are really what workers are after. What if the key to workplace contentment and productivity isn’t more stuff—sleeker desks, a cornucopia of food to fight over—but more quiet?

Oxford Economics, an analysis firm spun out of Oxford University’s business college, reached out to more than 1,200 executives and non-senior employees across industries, including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, financial services, and the government sector. The majority of the respondents (74 percent) reported that they worked in open-plan offices. A handful had private offices, and the rest split their days between home offices, travel, co-working spaces, or a combination of the three. About half of the respondents were Millennials.