Anyone who works in an office can rattle off a list of what frustrates them about their work space or coworkers. And these irritations likely interfere with employees’ ability to get things done.
That’s one of our conclusions from a recent original survey we undertook using the Google Opinion Rewards app. Over the course of four days, the survey collected responses from 351 participants to 10 questions about office complaints. Here are their uncensored takes on everything from open office layouts to overused work phrases and eating stinky foods in the workplace.
Survey says: The biggest frustrations at work
Of the 2,298 people who responded to the qualifying question for our survey (“Do you work in an office?”), only 28.4 percent of them work in an office full-time. Another 3.4 percent of respondents work in an office part-time, while a whopping 68.2 percent don’t actually work in a traditional office setting.
Of the respondents who were willing and able to weigh in about the trials and tribulations of life in an office, everyone who responded was based in the U.S. and between the ages of 25 and 54. (This age range was broken down into three groups: 25 to 34, 35 to 44, and 45 to 54.) The respondents were split nearly 50-50 between men and women.
When it came to their number one office complaints, respondents expressed frustrations about the following areas.
- Lack of privacy clocked in as the primary office complaint, with 34.6 percent of respondents claiming it was the greatest irritant in their office setting.
- Next up was noisiness: 27.4 percent of respondents cited this as the top complaint.
- A little more than 19 percent of respondents found lack of space to be the main irritant at work.
- Nearly 19 percent of the participants were primarily irked by a lack of access to adjustable furniture.
These complaints were expressed by approximately equal proportions of each age group. Slightly more men than women cited lack of privacy as a primary issue; slightly more women than men were annoyed by noisiness and the non-availability of adjustable furniture. More men than women expressed frustrations about a lack of space.
The fact that lack of privacy was identified as the top office complaint is consistent with other surveys and studies examining the downsides of open office spaces. Research suggests that across the board open offices create major distractions, harm office morale, drive up sick days, hinder productive thinking, and generally decrease productivity and employee performance.
Smaller irritations add up
After identifying respondents’ biggest office complaints, we dialed in on the nitty gritty frustrations of office life. These questions fell into several categories:
Nearly 40 percent of respondents complained that the temperature in their office is usually too cold. Meanwhile, a little more than one quarter of respondents feel their office is usually too hot. In light of these responses, it’s not surprising that more than 35 percent of participants were frustrated that employees can’t adjust the temperature.
Slow tech dominated the list of frustrations here. Nearly 50 percent of respondents expressed frustrations about slow computers, and nearly one third were annoyed by slow or inconsistent internet connectivity. Meanwhile, a little more than 21 percent felt frustrated by not understanding how to use new technological tools at work.
Email and messaging
Two big issues competed for primacy here. More than one-third of respondents expressed annoyance when people unnecessarily “reply all,” while one percent fewer respondents (36 percent) were most annoyed by receiving too many emails and/or messages per day.
There was a significant gap between these two complaints and the others that showed up in this category. The other two issues included receiving a message or email that’s lacking crucial info (with 14.2 percent of respondents being most annoyed by this issue) and receiving passive-aggressive emails or messages (with 12.2 percent of respondents finding this issue to be most frustrating).
Overused work phrases
A variety of workplace clichés fell into the “irritating” category. These included:
- “Think outside the box” (28.5 percent of respondents)
- “At the end of the day” (18.5 percent of respondents)
- “Pick your brain” (14.5 percent of respondents)
- “Circle back around” (11.5 percent of respondents)
- “Get the ball rolling” (10.7 percent of respondents)
- “Run it up the flagpole” (9.8 percent of respondents)
Only 0.6 percent of respondents weren’t annoyed by overused workplace sayings, while 5.9 percent wrote in other phrases.
The number one irritant in this category was “lack of natural light,” with 31 percent of respondents citing this as the primary frustration when it comes to their offices’ appearance. Next up was the issue of “no creativity,” which was noted by more than 25 percent of respondents. “Outdated décor” was the main issue for 23.4 percent of respondents, while “lack of color” was most irritating for a little more than 20 percent.
There was an overwhelming consensus in response to the question, “Which is the most annoying food a coworker could eat in the office?” Nearly 59 percent of respondents agreed fish is the most offensive meal to bring to work. Far less irritating options included:
- Smelly vegetables (15.4 percent of respondents)
- Popcorn (9.8 percent of respondents)
- Eggs (8.7 percent of respondents)
- Bacon (7.3 percent of respondents)
Far and away, respondents were most annoyed by laziness in other employees, with 43.5 percent of respondents noting this as their main frustration. Other irritating employee characteristics included:
- Hostility (27.1 percent of respondents)
- Unfriendliness (16.4 percent of respondents)
- Noisy eating (12.9 percent of respondents)
Bottom line? Sharing the same space with coworkers day in and day out can bring up a lot of irritations. In order to preserve productivity and morale, managers and teams should establish open communication about these issues and work to resolve frustrations before they become major grievances.