Every innovative company is jumping at the chance to create collaborative workspaces. But, creating an open space that works well for group collaboration and individual work is more challenging than you might think.
Controlling sound in an open office presents a major challenge to designers. Open office spaces often mean workers face multiple interruptions a day, especially when conversations echo across the room.
As a designer, there are solutions you can implement to make an open workplace productive, collaborative and creative. These seven noise-reducing ideas will help you create stylish, highly functional offices with great acoustics.
1. Use Furniture Strategically
In an open office design, limiting distractions can be as easy as choosing the right furniture. A couch with an extra high back can serve as a comfortable informal meeting spot that sends a message to other workers that the people sitting there don’t wish to be disturbed.
In the photo above, a planter divides a seating area from the space dedicated to getting on and off the elevators. This ensures people working at a table will not be disturbed by those waiting for the elevators and vice versa.
This idea also helps offices with limited floor space. Now this area, which might have just served as a lobby for the elevators, instead pulls double duty as a practical meeting place, too.
2. Install Acoustic Panels
Though open office settings with high ceilings are visually attractive, they can have distracting echoes and provide little privacy.
The State Emergency Service in Wollongong, NSW knew that controlling background noise and echo was crucial for their call center. As you can see in the above image, they used DecorTrend wall tiles from floor to ceiling to improve the acoustics of their large, open lobby.
Where once a visitor’s questions may have echoed throughout the lobby or a receptionist’s instructions gotten lost in the echoes of shoes on tile, now visitors and workers can have private, clear conversations.
3. Have Phone Booths or Rooms
In an open office setting, people still need to make and take phone calls. However, people don’t want to discuss private matters in front of all their officemates or disturb them with the noise of their call, and yet a one-on-one chat shouldn’t take up valuable conference room space.
To ensure group space isn’t taken up by a single user, and private conversations aren’t heard by all, consider installing dedicated phone booths or small rooms. They can also be used by workers who need a quiet space to focus on a task without the distractions of an open floor plan.
4. Open Cubicles Can Balance Privacy
What happens when you want to add acoustic privacy, but still want to maintain a collaborative, open office floor plan? There’s a solution between installing high walled cubicles and staying completely open.
Many cubicles are now built with the top half of the wall made from glass or slatted material, letting the office feel open while also blocking noise between cubicles.
The image above gives an example of this method, implemented with an added storage solution. As a bonus, there are also tables in between cubicle spaces where workers can have a semi-private conversation or meeting.
5. Use Acoustic Slatted Walls
If you have lower ceilings that can’t accommodate dropped acoustic tiles, outfit wall space in hallways and work areas with an attractive slatted acoustic solution instead.
These slatted walls look like an additional architectural feature as opposed to a purely functional sound barrier. This example could also be used to divide office spaces while still allowing light to pass through.
6. Line Hallways With Acoustic Solutions
Acoustic panels don’t have to be just one size or shape; instead, they can be cut to create an artful design. Lining hallways with cutouts, like in this photo, creates a high-impact design while providing functionality.
In an open office space, the hallways that connect open areas can act like tunnels of sound, making it feel like you can hear someone coming a mile away. Dampening sound in these hallways is important for the overall acoustics of the office, and as shown in this example, can add an eye-catching element to a typically overlooked area.
7. Install Carpets
The final tip is perhaps the most obvious. Hard surfaces bounce noise, while soft surfaces absorb it to improve the acoustics of the office space.
Though many modern offices opt for smooth surfaces like wood or concrete floors, installing carpeting will make a world of difference to the acoustics. This might be a tough sell to building owners looking for a modern design, so try compromising with large area rugs with modern patterns on hardwood floors.
Don’t let the common issues of acoustics in open offices discourage you from this modern design trend. Following acoustics best practices and incorporating some of the recommendations above will help ensure your open office is both beautifully designed and highly functional.
Contact Decor Systems for a professional consultation on implementing these seven tips to reduce noise in the workplace and make your open office design both stylish and functional.