Working in an open-plan office can be lots of fun. You just have to yell across the table to chat with a colleague and there are constantly people whizzing by, generating energy in the workplace.

However, there are numerous studies which indicate that open-plan offices also have severe limitations. Employees feel overwhelmed by the constant noise levels and many find it hard to concentrate on a task. Or imagine trying to call a client while Bob is yelling in the background, boasting about how drunk he got over the weekend.

How do UK employees feel about this? We asked them. In our online survey, 55% of respondents answered that they wished they had more privacy in the office.

Google online survey (n = 500), UK only, people working in an office aged 18 – 65+

What do employees do today when they need some privacy? Some are lucky and their office will have a few phone rooms (which are often occupied though). If they don’t, some will hang out in the hallway or the staircase. Others might even go outside to find a quiet place!

How much time do employees waste per week trying to find some privacy in the office? Only 40%* of our survey respondents indicated that they always find a quiet place in the office when needed right away. Of the 60% who don’t, employees waste on average 19 minutes per week searching for some privacy.

Want to find out what percent of people have ever taken a call on the toilet because they couldn’t find any other quiet place?

As an Office Manager or a business owner you might think that 19 minutes isn’t much to worry about. Is that true though? Let’s crunch some numbers and make some assumptions.

Let’s say the average small business in the UK has 100 employees and everyone works 8 hours per day (or 2,400 minutes per week). If 60 of the 100 employees (as per our survey results) waste on average 19 minutes per week searching for a quiet place then that sums up to 1,140 minutes per week, almost half of a full-time employee!

How else could you express this? If the average cost of a full-time employee is around £35,000 (base salary plus NIC and other benefits***) you could argue that you’ll waste half of that (£17,500).

Another (again admittedly crude) way of looking at this is in lost generated revenue per employee. The FTSE 100 companies generate over £2 trillion in revenue per year and employ almost 5 million people worldwide**. On average, that is £400,000 in revenue generated per employee (albeit worldwide). Let’s say it’s only £100,000 for the average UK small business (to be conservative). This would then translate into £50,000 in lost generated revenue.

Of course things are never as straight forward as illustrated above and every business is different. I’m sure you get the picture though. Now that affordable office phone booths are available, why wouldn’t your business get a few of them? In terms of ROI it would surely be the best investment your company has made in a while!


*Google online survey (n = 500), UK only, people working in an office aged 18 – 65+, October 2018 **Merchant Machine

***Instant Offices and Accounting Services for Business