Open floor plans have become an established standard for newer companies, and there are many great reasons for them. These types of offices seem to foster creativity, facilitate communication and encourage a collaborative spirit in the workplace — but when you have an open office space, noise can be a real concern.
Ways to Reduce Open Office Noise
Anytime you get a large number of people in the same open space, sound is bound to become an issue. Without an adequate way to reduce noise levels in a workplace, the open office can have the opposite effect — making clear communication difficult, creating distractions and generally frustrating your employees. Office noise reduction in an office without separate, enclosed units may seem impossible, but there are effective strategies for soundproofing an open office. Here are the top ten ways to consider:
1. Noise-Canceling Headphones
If you can’t soundproof the office, soundproof the employees! The highest quality noise-canceling headphones can make even the most open office feel like a private library.
Originally created for aircraft pilots, noise-canceling headphones are an incredibly effective solution available to the entire public. These headsets function by using microphones to sense and neutralize low-frequency noise before it hits your ear. They completely phase-invert the sounds they receive, resulting in two sounds that cancel each other out.
2. Quiet Space
Putting a room in your open office dedicated to quiet for employees to share can solve a lot of problems when it comes to soundproofing an open office. Your employees will know they can find quiet in this dedicated space, and others will know to respect their co-workers’ needs.
Conversely, you can dedicate a room meant for louder activity, too. 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.
You can outfit a room with reliable sound dampening acoustic panels like Soundproof Cow’s fabric-wrapped acoustic panels to create a soundproof environment in your open office.
3. White Noise
Abrupt sounds and harsh noises easily break peoples’ focus. To combat these distractions, provide your employees with white noise machines or just place one in the center of the office to create waves of pleasing, harsh noise-masking frequencies that will help smooth out the cacophony of open office sounds.
White noise is an even combination of frequencies across the spectrum. It gives listeners a baseline of auditory stimulation that can prevent our brains from noticing other noises, making it a great tool for noisy offices.
Plants are great sound blockers and can improve the look and air quality of your office as well. Certain plants with dense vegetation work particularly well to block out sound. Many evergreen shrubs like junipers and hollies make excellent noise-reducers because of their consistent distribution of thick branches. Place bushes along solid walls to amplify both of their sound-negating properties.
Strategically-placed furniture can block sound and create somewhat walled-off areas even in an open floor plan by adding a level of texture and some irregular surfaces to reflect and absorb sound. Upholstered chairs and sofas with plush fabrics like chenille, corduroy, microfiber and suede are particularly effective sound-absorbers.
Place furniture as close as possible to your office’s most common noise sources to soak up the most sound. Curtains and tapestries work well, too.
6. Quiet Floors
Floors are often the hardest and loudest surfaces in your office, but you can put measures in place to reduce the amount of noise they reflect.
Vinyl or carpet floors with soundproofing underlay like Soundproof Cow Impact QT Floor Underlayment can cushion many of the impact-sounds that can trouble open offices, like people walking or running across the floor, dropped office supplies and chairs rolling around. These underlays are easy to install and make a huge difference in your office’s noise level.
7. Strategic Layout
It’s not just the furniture you can place strategically. Keeping all the noisy machines at the far end of the office from the employees is one of many ways you can create a sound-friendly layout. By combining other strategies with a thoughtful floor plan, you’ll cut down on a significant amount of noise that distracts your hard-working staff.
8. Acoustic Panels
You don’t need to reserve our acoustic panels for the quiet room. You can easily install these effective, attractive panels anywhere in the office where you want to control sound.
Acoustic panels are made of compressed mineral wool or foam. They reduce noise by absorbing sound waves, rather than reflecting them. When sound hits the porous foam, the panels rapidly vibrate and convert sound to kinetic energy (heat) that simply dissipates into the air. This way, a significant percentage of the sound produced in your office will fade away.
An open office doesn’t have to be completely open. Some strategically placed partitions can do wonders for sound control. These walls are made from fabrics like polyester or cotton and function similarly to acoustic panels. They absorb noise and convert sound energy into small amounts of heat that quickly dissipates.
Since they aren’t attached to the wall, sound-proofing partitions are more easily moved around the room by one or two people depending on where you need them. In addition to sound reduction, they also provide visual privacy, allowing your employees to really get into their zone.
10. Soundproofing Insulation
A strong insulating barrier like our Quiet Batt™ 30 Soundproofing Insulation is a great way to be more energy-efficient and control sound. Insulating your walls with soundproofing insulation will reduce noise from two primary sources — airborne and impact. Airborne sound comes from outside your building or in adjacent rooms. Impact noise occurs when something collides with your wall, like when someone knocks or bumps into it.
Thicker insulation will increase the amount of sound your walls keep out, no matter the source. What’s more, stronger insulation also increases your office’s energy efficiency by holding in heat during the winter and keeping it out during the summer.
Find a few or try them all to help your open office be as soundproof as possible.