How can I improve my office acoustics?
Many modern offices are designed using an open plan layout and for good reason, as this type of space is ideal for building staff relationships, collaborating on projects and making all staff approachable.
However, with the considerable size of some open plan offices, the noise within these spaces can reverberate across the workplace, creating a distracting environment to try to work in. This is exacerbated by modern office equipment causing less ‘white noise’ that used to help to dampen the background disturbances.
Using our experience in office design, and our understanding of office acoustics, we are keen to share the ways in which you can reduce the noise pollution within your office as employees who work in acoustically comfortable environments produce higher-quality work and have overall better wellbeing.
Wall and Ceiling Mounted Acoustics
The first thing to consider is ceiling mounted acoustic panels which hang just below the ceiling whether solid plasterboard, a concrete soffit, or more commonly, a suspended ceiling. Not only do these improve acoustic performance within an office, but they also offer aesthetic opportunities, with panels available in different shapes and colours – they can even have artwork printed on them. This ensures they not only fit into your office space seamlessly, but they can also add an additional layer of design into your workspace.
Not only can the acoustic panels be fitted to your ceilings but wall mounted acoustic panels are also available. By using matching, or contracting, shapes, colours, and designs, you will be able to add another dimension to your office while calming any background noises. These panels are also very useful when ceiling heights prove to be restrictive.
Desk Mounted Screen and Space Division
We all need desks or semi-private areas to work in, so another effective way to enhance acoustic protection is to add desk mounted screens or space division to your workspace. These screens are a good way of breaking up the open areas and creating more fluid and multifunctional spaces. As with other acoustic solutions, screens come in different shapes and colours, so can be used to accentuate a particular design, for branding or used to zone areas within your office.
For hot desking or co-working spaces, it’s possible to create more isolated individual workspaces which allow for private spaces to be productive in for shorter bursts between other meetings or appointments. As with the solutions above, these acoustic workstations can be customised with various shapes, sizes & finishes to fit within any space.
In addition to screens, booth seating or collaboration seating can be used within open plan offices to break up the space, offer breakout areas and informal meeting spaces. Used to good effect, you can create a welcoming and well-designed working environment, for staff and visitors alike, while not distracting or being distracted.
Not all workspaces have ample space for large meeting rooms, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy areas within your open plan office where you can get aware from the noise of the office and have a private conversation or meeting.
We are seeing a rise in the popularity of acoustic pods to create quiet spaces within the open plan environment. The other benefit of these pods is that they are fully demountable and relocatable plus provide another design opportunity to enhance your working area.
More frequently than you may expect, one of the more effective solutions to improve office acoustics in a space is to add a background level of noise to replace what used to come from PC’s, air conditioning, printers, and other factors.
Sound masking systems work by making sounds that you would otherwise hear from a further distance indistinguishable from the other background noise in the office space; therefore, reducing the area around each person that would be distracted by noise.
These systems can be hidden behind a suspended ceiling, being controlled & adjusted accordingly to produce the correct level of masking for any given environment once installed.
As with most things, there is never one solution that solves the problem and office acoustics is no exception. We have found over the years that a mixed approached normally provides the best outcome and could involve some adjustments or additions to other elements of your office space if you have a particular situation to resolve. Please contact us to arrange a no obligation visit so we can advise on the best solution for you.
There is more information about noise at work available from HSE Executive.