How to Reduce Noise in an Open Plan Office

Studies have found that noise in the workplace is the number one cause of distraction in an office environment.

In fact, researchers in the UK found that background noise (both conversational noise and the standard sound of a busy office) can have a negative impact on memory, and even result in reduced productivity. And with background noise reported to be one of the most common forms of interference in an open plan office space, it’s vital that you be able to provide your staff with a quiet workspace where they can focus.

Below, you’ll find a list of ideas for how you can reduce office noise in your open plan office, minimising office distractions, enhancing employee morale, and helping staff work in comfort.

Set up dedicated quiet spaces

Setting up dedicated quiet spaces to separate ‘focus’ office work from ‘noisy’ office work is a great way of enhancing productivity in open plan offices.
Permanent walls or fixed partitions can create dedicated work areas while blocking out the distractions of a busy workplace which can reduce productivity. Similarly, ceiling-mounted partitions make an attractive option that offers floor-to-ceiling coverage plus the benefit of being able to open and close the partitions at any time.
However, while these solutions offer superior soundproofing and visual privacy, budget restrictions, or the need for a landlord permit may make big structural changes or permanent solutions an incompatible solution. These solutions also tend to be more expensive and require a longer build-time.

Set up dedicated quiet spaces

In this instance, a more cost-effective solution may be to install freestanding partitions or operable walls fitted with fabric that’s designed to absorb noise . While such partitions can’t be expected to offer complete sound isolation, they do offer sound dampening qualities to help reduce noise and reverberation in the office.
Alternatively, partitions featuring polycarbonate or glass panels can be used to reflect sound, helping to prevent internal or external noise from making its way to the other side of the partition. These types of materials are excellent for creating a more private and quiet place for staff to work, but they’re not designed to absorb sound, so the material may amplify noise made within the room. They also cannot completely block out loud noise, this includes scraping chairs or loud conversations between staff.
Acoustic partitions can also be used to set up private meeting rooms in an open office. This helps to enhance comfort and support clear communication by separating the meeting area from the noise and distraction of the standard office.

Offer noise cancelling headphones

Everyone is different, and you may find that some staff find ambient noise more distracting than others.

If an employee is struggling to focus in a large office space due to noise distractions, you can help them to block out the sound by offering noise-cancelling headphones. Many headphones also play white noise to help mask unwanted sounds.

Alternatively, white noise machines set up in a quiet space can help to mask background sound to improve focus and support productivity.

Install acoustic wall panels

A large, open office space with a lot of bare walls can cause reverberation and amplify even the smallest of sounds. That means, standard office noise, such as office worker conversation, phone calls, and even low-level ambient sound can seem much louder in an open plan office.
This can not only cause distractions, it can also reduce employee productivity.
Many offices choose to include acoustic wall panels or ceiling panels made from sound absorbing materials into their workplace design to help control distracting noise in open plan offices. When affixed to the wall or roof in loud spaces, acoustic panels work to control sound reverberation to create a quieter and more comfortable work environment.

Install acoustic wall panels

Install sound controlling office partitions

Whether fitted with sound absorbing materials or noise reflecting panels, office dividers are an excellent option for managing distracting noise in an open plan office space.
Many businesses choose to fit out large spaces with tall fabric partitions or operable walls, which offer sound absorption qualities and help to reduce reverberation within the room. Alternatively, partitions featuring polycarbonate or double glazed glass are designed to reflect sound to prevent internal and external noises from making their way to the other side of the partition. Installing office partitions offers increased privacy for all, and helps to reduce noise levels inside the office space, helping employees focus on their work.

Install sound controlling office partitions

Such partitions can also be used to set up a temporary quiet room where staff can focus on an important task, or conference rooms where teams can communicate without distraction. Solid walls, fixed partitions, or ceiling-mounted partitions also offer superior soundproofing due to their floor-to-ceiling design. However, these more permanent solutions typically come at a higher price-point, require longer installation times, and come at the cost of portability and a customisable design.

Install carpet floors

Hard surfaces are one of the major culprits behind a noise problem in open plan offices, which is why reducing exposed walls and tiles is a great way of controlling noise in a large space.

Similar to sound-absorbing office partitions and acoustic panels, carpet can offer sound reduction qualities in open offices. By installing carpet instead of tiles, you can help to minimise reverberation, while also eliminating the distraction of shoes and dropped pens, and even harsh noises such as the scraping of chairs on hard floors.

Use fabric office furniture

An under-utilised key to office noise reduction, you can help to control sound in an open office simply with your choice of furniture.

Just like other bare surfaces, hard office furniture won’t absorb sound, and may even amplify it. Fabric furniture, on the other hand, can help with sound absorption and noise reduction, creating a quieter space for staff to focus on their work.

When it comes to controlling reverberation and reducing excess noise in your open plan office, never underestimate the power of a strategically placed fabric couch, chair, or acoustic privacy screen.

Establish a company culture of respect

Sometimes, all it takes to reduce noise in an open plan office is cultivating a culture of respect.

Some people are like a bull in a china shop, banging down pencils, throwing themselves into their chairs, and talking louder than everyone else.

In these situations, it’s important to encourage a culture of respect for others. If you’ve got a noisy employee, you may need to politely remind them to not become a distraction for others. Quite often, these people don’t even know that they’re distracting people, so a gentle reminder may be all it takes to encourage a noisy worker to take a little more care as they go about their day.

Set up plants

Not only are plants a great way of adding a bit of colour and natural beauty to your office, they can also assist with noise reduction.

By strategically placing plants in spaces that tend to reflect and amplify sound, such as bare walls and corners, you can do more than just brighten up your employees’ day, you can also help to muffle sound and reduce noise pollution from external sources.

Get creative with your office design

Sometimes, an open plan office isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Set up plants

If you’re finding that your open plan office is causing more noise and distraction than it’s worth, you can break up your space using permanent wall panels, semi-permanent mounted partitions, or completely portable screens.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for ways to reduce noise without giving up the feel of an open plan space, glass walls are an excellent option. Clear, so you don’t block off sources of natural light, glass partitions are an excellent way of sectioning off your space and reducing noise without appearing to close off your open office design.
As it’s a hard surface, glass offers minimal sound-dampening qualities. However, with double-glazing it’s great for reflecting sound to keep interior noises in and exterior noises out.

Need help controlling office noise in your space?

There are many ways that you can reduce office noise, and plenty of resources for dampening sound in your open plan office. If you’d like to discuss your options for installing soundproofing office room dividers, our friendly customer service team is always here to help.Simply give us a call or email us today and we’ll be there to help you find the right solution for your office.