07/11/2014 04:52 pm ET

Talkative Co-Workers Are Far More Distracting Than Email, Odors


We may live in an era of constant technological distractions, but Americans still find old-fashioned office gossip much more annoying than emails, phone calls and weird computer noise.

In a new survey by consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison, 45 percent of workers said talkative co-workers were more distracting than anything else in the office. Emails came in a distant second place at 18 percent and odors in third at 9 percent.

Talkative co-workers: 45 percent
Emails: 18 percent
Odors: 9 percent
Telephone calls: 8 percent
Ambient noise: 6 percent
Office design: 5 percent
Technology: 4 percent
Nothing at all: 5 percent

“Overly talkative co-workers usually have no idea how annoying they are to their colleagues," Jim Greenway, vice president of marketing at Lee Hecht Harrison, wrote in a statement about the survey. "They simply lack the self-awareness to recognize the signals."

These days 70 percent of employees in the U.S. work in open-plan offices, where private offices and cubicles have been replaced with communal workspaces. Perhaps a buzzing smartphone doesn't seem that bad when compared to your co-worker's relationship drama.

Nevertheless, Greenway says that up to a point, office chatter does serve a purpose.

“Serendipitous conversations in the hallway or brief stops by a co-worker’s office or cubicle for some chit-chat can yield tremendous benefits in terms of collaboration, generating new ideas, creating trust and increasing productivity," he said.

The firm surveyed 848 U.S workers in an online poll conducted in April.