Solving Office Noise Problems

A beautifully-designed office is a huge factor in recruiting and retaining talent. In the modern office, features like open floor plans, huddle rooms, and meeting spaces surrounded by glass walls are more popular than ever. While these workspaces are unique and make a statement about company culture, there can be a problem with office noise. 

These challenges are incredibly common in our home city of Richmond, Virginia. Businesses and residential properties are springing up in renovated older buildings. While the charm and unique features of these buildings are undeniable, they aren’t exactly designed for the modern workplace. 

A 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that workers lost as much as 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions. So is it possible to have a gorgeous, modern office and maintain peace and quiet, too? Here are some techniques businesses can leverage to reduce unwanted noise.

Layout, Layout, Layout,

Before you add any new elements to the workplace, make sure the layout itself supports your goal. In other words, consider an activity-based working environment (ABW) as opposed to a completely open office plan. While an open office may encourage flexibility and collaboration, its inherent lack of office noise control can hurt productivity. 

In an ABW environment, there are designated areas for meetings and brainstorming sessions, as well as places for quieter activities like deep work. There might be phone booths where employees can privately take calls without disturbing their colleagues. You can also take your office noise control efforts a step further! Place high-traffic spaces such as break rooms, kitchens and conference rooms away from workstations.

Have you made the best use of your available space? Is there a better way to lay out your office to make it a better working environment for your team? Working with an office interiors specialist means that you benefit from the latest thinking and best practice. Their experience will help you overcome most of the issues your work environment is facing.

Contrasting Spaces

An ABW environment also tells your employees when its okay to be loud. Designating areas for meetings, socializing, and working will naturally create a more controlled work environment.

Dedicated Quiet Spaces

Dedicated quiet spaces can solve a lot of problems when it comes to fixing office noise. Your employees know there’s a space they can go to find peace and quiet. Others will know to respect their co-workers’ needs in those environments. Empty offices or conference rooms make for a great makeshift work sanctuaries. However, some companies incorporate dedicated quiet spaces within their office layout. 

Provide Loud Spaces Too

In contrast, businesses can also designate areas around the office that encourage interaction and discussion. These areas communicate to employees the acceptable places to take personal calls or chat with coworkers. Working at your desk, on the other hand, means quiet time. If employees can escape to make a phone call, work out a tough problem or even just to hear themselves think for a few minutes, it can make things much easier.

Background Noise

A proven office noise reduction strategy involves fighting noise with noise. Ambient noise played at a consistent level is proven to help mask unwanted sounds. Research suggests that noise itself isn’t distracting, but “speech noise” is. The benefit of sound masking is that it helps make conversations unintelligible. That baseline of auditory stimulation prevents our brains from focusing on noises, making it a great tool.

Sound Absorbing Materials

While we love design features like exposed brick, hardwood floors, and marble countertops, they come with a solemn truth. Hard surfaces do a poor job at absorbing sound. But never fear! You can integrate softer materials with those design features we love so much. That’s called having your cake and eating it too: 

Acoustic Ceiling Panels

Acoustic panels are made of compressed mineral wool or foam. Due to their porous material, they  reduce noise by absorbing sound waves, rather than reflecting them. There are some clever ways to hang ceiling panels to add interest to the office design too! One of our favorite techniques involves ‘flying’ V-flaps that help to dissipate noise while looking cool!

Get Artsy With Walls

Sound-absorbing wall panels are incredibly effective in combatting noise pollution in the workplace. The rub is that they can be kind of ugly…until recently that is! As the importance of office noise management has risen, so has the aesthetic quality of wall panels. Some even double as both high-quality soundproofing materials and unique pieces of art.

Don’t Neglect the Floors

Unforgiving flooring surfaces like concrete, porcelain and ceramic can wreak havoc within a work setting. While carpet is an okay flooring solution for noise reduction, engineered hardwood and LVT flooring are also versatile alternatives. You could also consider a soundproof underlay to cushion many of the impact-sounds that trouble open offices. These are easy to install and make a huge difference in your office’s noise level.

Go Green

Looking for a more natural option? Plants boast sound absorbing capabilities that have proven effective in reducing noise levels in an open office setting. The larger the plant means the bigger the impact, so live walls (or green walls) are also increasing popular in commercial design.

[mkb-tip]Livewire Tip: They don’t just help alleviate noise pollution! Plants in the workplace have other significant health benefits like including improving oxygen levels in an office.[/mkb-tip]

Just a Few More Tips…

While we’ve touched on several of the big-ticket ways you can reduce noise in your office, there are a lot of little things you can do to help create a more stimulating and productive work environment:

  • Bench System Screens – Desk bench systems are a hugely popular way to make the most of limited office space. However, they don’t always provide the quietest environment. Acoustic friendly desk screens can help absorb and deflect some of the noise.
  • PC Box Placement – It’s still popular to keep PC boxes on the desk, often supporting the monitor. Not only does this cut down workspace, it brings the hot fan and pc noise closer to the employee. Try ‘hanging’ a PC under the desk and putting the monitor/screen on an arm.
  • Isolating IT Equipment – Printers and photocopiers contribute to the office sound in two ways. First, the noise when in use. Second, they tend to be natural gathering points for employees. Centralize this equipment in area separate from the main working area to significantly reduce noise levels.

Next Steps

Noise is one of the most common complaints raised by employees working in corporate office settings. If you have ever worked in a similar environment, then you know how distracting the constant activity of a busy workplace can be. But a noisy workplace doesn’t have to be an annoyance forever! Discuss your commercial needs with us, and we’ll generate a custom approach for your business.