Open plan offices may seem to be great idea for collaborative working and encouraging a sense of shared purpose. But they do come with a nasty side-effect: unwanted noise.
Poor design, layout and planning can result in a space which seems to favour form over function. Noise is often cited as a leading cause of workplace dissatisfaction and increased stress. Not only that, but unwanted sound can result in some people feeling angry and irritated, inadvertently straining work relationships and negatively affecting staff morale.
With concentration shattered by noise, productivity suffers. Estimates of time lost to distractions are well over an hour each and every day. Getting that time back would make a big difference to individual team members, and to your business as a whole.
The good news is there are a number of solutions available which don’t involve a complete remodelling of the office.
1. Reconsider your layout
This is a great place to start. Now you’ve been operating in your space for a while, do you really have the best layout? Have you made best use of the available space? Are there simple changes that would prevent noise travelling quite so far through the space?
One way to simply reconfigure the layout would be to consider installing partitions at key points throughout the space. Even low-level partitions can help reduce unwanted noise.
2. How about suspended ceilings?
Whilst industrial-style exposed or concrete ceilings can look very cool, they are common culprits for causing sound to reverberate around open plan spaces.
Suspended ceilings have stood the test of time with good reason. Panels can be chosen for their sound absorption properties, helping to reduce reverberation. They can also help reduce any ambient noise from mechanical systems in this ceiling space, such as air conditioning units.
3. Incorporate acoustic ceilings rafts
If you don’t want to remodel the entire ceiling, acoustic ceiling rafts can be a fantastic choice. They can be suspended from your existing ceiling to deflect and absorb sound.
They’re also a great choice if keeping up appearances is a priority. There are a wide range of options which can really enhance office design.
4. Install acoustic ceiling baffles
Ceiling baffles control sound in a similar way to ceiling rafts, but with two sides exposed to the environment, the resulting improvements to sound improvement can be even more dramatic.
5. Switch to noise-friendly flooring
Carpets have fallen out of favour with some commercial interior designers, but they can be a more practical choice than polished concrete, for example, because they do help with noise reduction.
However, carpets aren’t the only option. Vinyl flooring is very versatile and boasts sound absorption qualities. Some even have enhanced built in sound reduction. They’re great from a maintenance perspective too.
6. Make the most of glass partitions
Incorporating glass partitions can be a fantastic solution – flexible, funky and available with varying degrees of acoustic protection.
You can use glass partitions to create dedicated quiet spaces for when people just need to shut themselves away and concentrate.
Alternatively, use them to create meeting booths or pods that will prevent group discussions bothering those not directly involved.
Another option would be to use glass partitions to isolate any noisy IT equipment, printers, or even the tea and coffee station.
7. Install acoustic wall panels
Acoustic wall panels are specifically designed to absorb sound. They are a particularly cost effective solution. And there’s no need to compromise on style. Arrange them to look like a fancy new art installation. You can even print them with images of your choice so they look like part of the décor rather than a functional solution.
8. Bring in the plants!
It’s true – plants help reduce noise. The bigger then better! Living walls are becoming a feature of many of the coolest offices around, but if you can’t stretch to that, a few carefully positioned pot plants can help. They bring lots of other benefits too.
9. Upgrade your furniture
Your choice of furniture can help control the travel of sound around the office. From high backed sofas in meeting areas to a carefully positioned filing cabinet, a few key pieces can make a big difference.
10. Hide away computers
If you still have your main PC unit on your desk, look for a different option, such as suspending it under the desk. Not only will this remove the annoying computer fan noise, it will have the added benefit of giving you more desk space! Just make sure you adjust the height of your monitor if it’s been resting on the PC box.
How can we help?
We have lots of experience of helping renovate open plan offices and other commercial spaces, always with an eye firmly on making sure the environment created is conducive to a positive, productive environment. If you’d like to discuss acoustic panels, baffles or rafts, glass partitions or upgrading your ceiling, please do get in touch.