How to Get Good Acoustics in an Open Plan Office
When we talk about “good acoustics,” we’re usually referring to design that allows sound to be heard clearly from far away. But in offices, good acoustics are quite the opposite thing. While most people can tune out a steady hum of activity when working, other people’s conversations are bound to 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, but what troubled them most was a lack of “sound privacy.”
That’s understandable. After all, who wants to feel that colleagues will overhear every telephone call? And if you think the whole office is going to overhear what you have to say, you might not be as keen to contribute to impromptu 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 you think twice before doing so. Yes, there will be fewer distractions, but the advantages of open-plan offices shouldn’t be overlooked.
After all, your employees are more inclined to feel part of a team, forge strong 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, simpler solutions can be found. Most of the time, your employees won’t be too bothered by noise or a lack of sound privacy, but when they need to focus intently on tasks or conversations, being able to retreat to a quiet space will help them.
Some businesses are offering “quiet rooms” where all conversations are prohibited, but 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.