Improving Workspace Acoustics
63% of employees feel distracted by their office environment. Being distracted in the office is nothing unusual, yet the impact on individual and company performance is huge. Employees are 15% less productive when they can overhear others’ conversations. Successful companies know that distractions are a huge problem. Over half of high-growth companies believe minimizing distractions is a top priority.
If you or your staff are distracted in the office, then you’re certainly not alone. However, it’s not just an irritating insignificance. It’s a major drag on the focus, wellbeing, and productivity of your people. Even worse, that has a negative impact on the communication, growth, and profitability of your company.
If you do have a problem with noise pollution in your office, you’re not powerless. There are several things you can do to mitigate the issue. In this article, we’ll walk you through 4 key areas in which you can improve your office acoustics. By the end, you’ll know about the different options, and you’ll be able to decide which one(s) will be most suitable for you.
Identifying the Issue
Before you start researching and implementing solutions, it's important to check that you’ve actually identified the problem correctly. You need to be certain what is causing the noise. This will allow you to resolve it in the most effective way.
For example, if the issue is plant or machinery elsewhere in the building, installing sound deadening in your own office will have a limited impact. If your people are too close to each other, this will require a very different solution to a workspace that echoes a lot despite staff having plenty of space. In this article, we focus on the most common issue – background noise and distraction caused by talking staff.
If you’re looking to improve the acoustics of your office, you’ve probably overlooked the layout of your space. However, this is a fundamental consideration. If your people are too close to each other, then acoustic finishes won’t fix the issue properly. If you have noisy collaboration spaces next to quiet focussed areas, sound deadening will have a limited impact.
The most effective way to resolve this issue is to improve the layout of your office. First, ensure you have enough space in your office. For most companies, 100-200 sq/ft per person is appropriate, but to learn more read this article. You then need to ensure your office space plan is optimised for acoustics. This means making sure high-noise environments are not located near low-noise areas.
Purpose-designed acoustic products are popular in offices. The most common are sound-absorbing desk screens and wall panels. However, there are many other options for sound-reducing design features, such as ceiling rafts, curtains, and pendant lighting.
To maximise noise reduction, you should place sound absorbing features where sound reflects the most – typically walls at head height, in corners, and in bottlenecks such as corridors. This will ensure your office is as quiet as possible.
Furniture & Finishes
There are many other ways to reduce sound throughout your space beyond purpose-designed acoustic products. Hard, flat surfaces will reflect a lot more sound than soft, textured surfaces. You should use soft and/or textured surfaces wherever possible to minimise noise pollution.
For example, using carpet tiles will make your space much quieter than if you use wooden, vinyl, or tile flooring. Some suspended ceiling tiles will absorb sound much better than others. Because they are the major source of sound reflection, walls are especially important. Aside from acoustic panels, you could install curtains or even a living wall to create a soft or textured surface that will reduce noise reverberation.
Most options for reducing distractions in your office involve eradicating noise. However, adding soft, consistent background noise can have the same effect. It’s often overlooked, but sound-masking is an excellent option.
Sound masking is different from white noise or active noise cancelling. It uses speakers throughout your space to play soft, indistinguishable sounds at similar frequencies to the human voice. As it is consistent, staff become attuned to it. Background voices blend into it and become indistinguishable – effectively eliminating background noise.
Reducing Noise Pollution in Your Office
Now that you know about the 4 key areas to look at to improve your office acoustics, you’re able to decide which is the most relevant and suitable for your company. The crucial thing is to ensure you have identified the source(s) of the noise correctly, as this will impact what the best solution is.
If you have a specific or isolated noise problem, then you may be able to resolve it with acoustic products. If the issue affects your entire office, then sound masking will likely be the best option. If the issue is very severe, or you are carrying out a design & build project anyway, then you should look to layout and finishes to fix the problem first.
There is no doubt that poor office acoustics can be very damaging to the performance of your staff and company. However, by implementing the above solutions, you can mitigate or resolve the problem.
Poor acoustics is not the only thing that can damage the performance of your people. Other things, like bland design, poor ergonomics, and outdated technology are also common issues. Learn more about office design issues and how to fix them in this article.
If you’re worried about noise and distractions in your office, then you may be concerned about your staff productivity at a wider level. To learn more about productivity and office design, download this ebook. There, you’ll learn why office design has such a big impact on the performance of your business, the types of spaces you need in your office to maximise your staff productivity, and finally, the specific design features you need to do that. Download the Office Design & Productivity Guide here.