Open-plan offices promote a collaborative and unified workspace, which is why they have become so appealing to countless businesses. However, everything has its downsides and open plan designs are no exception. Open-plan offices are typically plagued with excessive noise levels. With no real barrier to stop sounds traveling across the office, the noise continues to build until it becomes a distraction that can easily affect employee productivity. This is why managing office noise levels is so important. Here are 5 top tips for reducing noise in open-plan offices.
1. Organise Your Office Layout Strategically
The seating arrangement within an office can make a significant difference in noise levels. By organizing desks to seat people by department, you can contain noises in one area instead of them being spread across the room. Each department will be in close communication with each regarding their specific department’s tasks. This reduces the need for conversations across the entire room.
It’s also a good idea to keep noisy office equipment such as printers and fax machines out of the way or in a separate space altogether if possible. While printers aren’t particularly noisy by themselves, any noises that can be reduced should be to avoid the excessive buildup of noise.
2. Introduce a Break Room (Designated Noisy Area)
Having a specific space away from the general office where people can take their breaks, eat lunch, and catch up with co-workers is essential. This will give people a chance to take a proper break away from their desks and recharge for the afternoon ahead.
Not only do breakout areas aid in improving employee wellbeing, but they’re also effective at reducing noise in the main office. By separating the people talking and the people working, you can give workers a better environment to concentrate and focus on their tasks.
3. Manage Background Noise
Managing the amount of background noise in an open-plan office is crucial for productivity. The small and seemingly innocent sounds such as typing or mouse clicking, quickly build up and cause havoc on office noise levels. Fortunately, there are several effective ways to reduce background noise within the office.
One popular method of background noise reduction is installing acoustic panels. Acoustic panels are sound absorbent. This gives them the ability to absorb background sounds and reduce the overall noise levels within the room. Acoustic panels can’t soundproof a room, but they do help improve the sound quality within it. This makes them a favorable option for open-plan offices. If wall space is limited, there are other acoustic solutions such as acoustic clouds or baffles. These can be applied to the ceiling to absorb sound from above.
Most acoustic solutions offer interior design improvements alongside their sound-absorbing benefits. Acoustic solutions such as wall panels, rafts, and baffles are available in an abundance of colors, designs, shapes, sizes, and patterns to suit and enhance the design of your office. These help in reducing noise in open-plan offices.
4. Keep Meetings Separate
Meetings can be loud, especially when they involve several people. If meetings were to take place in the main office, it could easily disrupt people trying to work. Plus it potentially disrupts the meeting too. Having a dedicated space for people to hold meetings (whether this be an entirely separate room or just an area that’s out of the way) can not only reduce office noise levels but will also assist in keeping private meetings confidential.
Many businesses choose not to have separate rooms within the office to keep the design as open as possible. If this is the case, acoustic pods are a great alternative. Meeting pods, phone booths and acoustics pods offer a private space without ruining the collaborative benefits of an open plan design with permanent structures.
5. Use Desk Dividers
The occasional conversation is common in an office. If your employees often engage in a leisurely chat while they work, desk dividers could make a considerable difference. Desk dividers act as a barrier to noise, keeping conversational sounds to a minimum.
Desk dividers also provide a little more privacy, acting as a physical barrier as well as a noise barrier. Most desk dividers are easy to install, aren’t permanent, and can double up as a noticeboard.
Enjoy Peace and Quiet
With these 5 simple changes, you can transform your open plan office into a productive, collaborative, and thriving work environment for all employees.