How to Get Good Acoustics in an Open Plan Office
When we talk about “good acoustics,” we’re usually referring to designs that allow people to hear sound from far away. But in offices, good acoustics are quite the opposite thing. While most people can tune out sounds while working, other people’s conversations can be a distraction.
Noise: A Frustration for You and Your Employees
According to the Harvard Business Review, research shows that sound privacy and noise level were most problematic for people working in cubicles and shared offices. Oddly enough, open plan office employees were less frustrated by noise levels. On the other hand, what was troubling them was a lack of “sound privacy.”
That’s understandable. After all, who wants to feel that colleagues will overhear every telephone call? If employees think others are going to overhear their conversation, they maybe less likely to contribute to meetings with colleagues.
Open Plan Offices Still Have Advantages
Even if you could afford to give each employee his or her own, private office. We would suggest thinking twice before doing so. Yes, there will be fewer distractions, but the advantages of open-plan offices shouldn’t be overlooked.
After all, employees are more inclined to be team players, forge working relationships, and collaborate in an open office. Plus, you get to save costs because they can share resources.
So, how do we balance the advantages and disadvantages of open plan offices? Since noise and distraction when carrying out complex tasks are the primary problems, we need to take a closer look at office acoustics.
Office Acoustics Improvements to Consider
Although interior designers have come up with a slew of ideas, including acoustic damping for ceilings, more straightforward solutions are available. Most of the time, your employees won’t be too bothered by noise or a lack of sound privacy. However, when they need to focus intently, being able to retreat to a quiet space will be beneficial.
Some businesses are offering “quiet rooms” where all conversations are prohibited. However, since so many of the things we do will involve conversations, that may not be the most practical solution.
Lately, acoustic partitioning and furniture are getting a lot of attention from business owners who want to improve office acoustics without the expense of completely redesigning interiors. “Absorptive materials” are the buzz word to look out for, and it makes perfect sense.
If you’ve ever been in a space with a lot of hard surfaces such as a hall or an empty room, you’ll know how loudly your voice echoes. Fill the space with upholstered furniture, and sound loses its carrying quality. However, there’s no way you’ll soundproof spaces just by choosing acoustic furnishings. It will help, but it won’t eliminate the problem entirely.
Could Acoustic Partitioning be the Answer?
No, you don’t have to return to the cubicle concept. The beauty of acoustic partitioning is that it can be set up anywhere for as long as it’s needed, and then be removed. It’s virtually soundproof, so as your accountant finalizes the month’s management accounts, or while you have that important meeting, the partitioning keeps sound out. Once you’re ready to return to business as usual, you simply fold it away and store it, or move it to another location.
The beauty of this concept is that you get the best of both worlds: private, quiet spaces are yours on demand, and you and your staff can enjoy the open-plan teamwork environment in the same space.
If you’d like to get more information on acoustic partitioning and sound-damping office furniture, get in touch with us. We’re excited about office furniture and partitioning options that can help you to make your employees more comfortable, and your office more productive. Talk to one of our client consultants today.