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Top 10 Ways to Reduce Noise in your Open Plan Office

Clever ideas to help you aim for happier, more productive employees

Noise is one of the most common complaints of employees working in corporate office settings. And that’s especially the case in open-plan offices, where employees are situated together in a large space with no separation.

If you’ve ever worked in such an environment, you’ll know how distracting the constant activity of a busy workplace can be.

But a noisy workplace can be more than just an annoyance. Multiple studies have shown that too much noise in the office can seriously reduce productivity and increase stress, not to mention lower both job satisfaction and employee morale.

Research shows that 49% of workers report being unable to concentrate easily, while the average person loses 86 minutes per day due to distractions. – Steelcase, 2014

A study from the University of Sydney in 2013 found that lack of sound privacy was the biggest frustration for employees.

If you or your employees are suffering from any of these symptoms, it might be time to consider one or more of the following 10 ways to reduce noise in your open plan office.

A colorful and eye-catching cover image for an infographic showcasing the top 10 ways to reduce noise in an open plan office, providing practical tips and strategies to create a more comfortable and productive work environment for employees.
Download a copy of the The Top 10 Ways to Reduce Noise in Your Open-Plan Office.

Use desk partitions

A tried-and-true solution, desk partitions and cubicles have helped businesses of all sizes separate employees and reduce overall office noise. Even low-level wall partitions that don’t wholly close workers off have proven effective.

Install acoustic wall panels

Sound absorbing wall panels are incredibly effective in combatting noise pollution in the workplace. Though not all wall panels are aesthetically pleasing, luckily, there are some more modern design options available, such as a custom Calando Panel.

Improve your office’s insulation

Installing sound insulation material can reduce noise transfer between areas of your office. This noise reduction strategy makes the most sense during an office renovation or tenant fit-out as it is time-consuming and messy work.

Control background noise

One proven noise reduction strategy for open office spaces involves fighting noise with noise. It seems counterintuitive, but ambient noise (or white noise) played in the background consistently has been shown to help mask unwanted sounds. Effective types of background noise include rainfall and waves crashing on the beach.

Incorporate a dedicated quiet space

Occasionally, it’s good for employees to get away to a quiet place within their workspace. While empty conference rooms can make for great makeshift work sanctuaries, some businesses incorporate dedicated quiet spaces within their office layout.

Get innovative with your office layout

Another way to reduce noise in an office space is to get creative with your overall office layout. For example, desks situated close together in clusters help compartmentalise noise, especially when separated by some soft furnishings. Even simpler, perhaps some of the noisier office equipment (e.g., copy machine, printer, or fax machine) can be situated in a separate room away from workers.

Provide noise-cancelling headphones

If redesigning the office is not a feasible option, perhaps the easiest way to reduce noise in your open office space is by purchasing high-quality noise-cancelling headphones. Some quality brands even boast 100% noise reduction by using microphones and special processing to create an opposite sound wave to the one headed for an employee’s eardrums. The only downside? Reduced collaboration through not being able to easily converse with your colleagues.

Invest in sound-friendly furniture

Couches, lounge chairs, partitions and filing cabinets can all impact the acoustics of open office space – especially high-backed couches or enclosed booths that essentially separate a person from the rest of the room.

Provide plants, plants, and more plants

Well-placed plants have proven to be effective in reducing noise levels in an open office setting. The larger the plant, the more significant its impact. As a bonus, living walls and green walls are not only ideal for sound reduction; they’re also increasingly popular in commercial design with their obvious aesthetic benefits and overall impact on air quality.

Install noise-friendly flooring

Hard flooring surfaces like natural wood, porcelain and ceramic can wreak havoc within a work setting, thanks to the massive noise pollution they create. While carpet is an ideal flooring solution for noise reduction, vinyl flooring is a versatile alternative offering ease of maintenance and variety of design options.

Talk to Avenue Interior Systems for more ideas to reduce open-plan office noise.

Open office space environments thrive off a certain level of collaboration between employees; the key is to find the perfect balance of noise-reducing solutions that make sense for your work environment.