If there's not that much noise then the employee is just being a whiner. If it's really that noisy then the employer should be addressing that situation and the market does provide incentives to address the situation. If it's too noisy for employees to be productive then the business will fail and ifring and hiring new people won't work if it's really too noisy.
Yes, I think that employees have a right to complain if they feel like their environment is affecting their work ethic. Employers should provide a positive and quiet work environment if they want great work. It is the only the only way to guarantee the happiness of employees and thier clients.
On one hand, it's easy to respond cynically to worker claims that a noisy work environment has prevented them from getting their job done. It is almost too perfect of an excuse, and one that workers could always fall back on. But on the other hand, I believe employers should take this issue seriously, as noisy open work places have become commonplace in corporations across the country.
While some can work perfectly fine with outside noise, tuning out the distraction and focusing in on the task at hand, others simply don't have that gift. Much like with studying, a quiet environment has been shown to increase productivity. Classical music can also promote healthy studying, so it might also be a productive deterrent to drown out distracting noises.
I work in a cabinet shop. It will always be noisy. I will always be expected to get my work done. Employees who have trouble with noise should take responsibility for their problems rather than adking Big Brother to do it for them. The Corporation has incentives for keeping it reasonable, and in my experience most do. The foam earbuds my company provided weren't enough for me so I bought earmuff style hearing protection. Most of my co workers don't even regularly use the earbuds. Clearly I'm the outlier and it's not reasonable to expect the company to adjust the environment to my needs.
No, a lack of progress at work can't be blamed on a noisy environment. Distractions are everywhere and we must overcome the obstacles in our work environment to produce quality work. I believe that being distracted by sounds around us shows a lack of focus and concentrations. Simple actions, such as wearing noise cancelling headphones, can be taken by a noise-sensitive employee to eliminate loud interruptions. Employees need to give their undivided attention to their work no matter what the environment.