An open office is an innovative layout that is quickly becoming a predominant workplace organization trend. Sure, the cubicle system had some advantages, but with an open office, you enhance inclusivity and get more room with the same office size. Aside from this, some people appreciate the fact that you have more design options for the office space and that the place will, most likely, have better aesthetics.
There are some cons, as well. The biggest one is the fact that the noise moves unobstructed throughout the area. With the cubicle system or separate offices, you have barriers preventing minor noises like keyboard sounds, footsteps, or office chatter from spreading around the space.
In the open office, it seems like this low-volume ambient is impossible to eliminate. Fortunately for you, the situation is not as desperate. Here are some of the best ways to reduce noise in your open office.
Noise Friendly Floor
There are several reasons why your office floor is the first place to consider when trying to make a noise-friendly office. First of all, there’s nothing you can do about the footsteps other than finding a more sound-absorbent floor.
Ideally, you would go for a flooring option like laminate, hardwood, plywood, or cork. However, you also need to take maintenance into consideration. With so many people walking, spilling, snacking, etc., in this area, you need to think about stain, scratch, and dent resistance, as well. Here, it’s all about the priorities.
Keep in mind that while some flooring options (like ceramic tiles) are not as soft/quiet, you can apply a special technique to make it a bit quieter. For instance, there are special films on top of which the tiles are installed. There are also the special mortar and adhesive mixtures that increase the absorption of the tile in question. Overall, you’re not without the options.
Adding some rugs (like runner rugs in the hallway and area rugs in the common area) can lower foot traffic noise by quite the margin.
Canceling Outside Noise
Chances are that your office will share the building with other enterprises. If you have someone above you, the footprints may cause your staff to go mad over the course of time. Offices next to yours can also be quite problematic, not to mention outside noises like traffic. This is why you might want to have soundproof walls and ceilings, as well.
Soundproof walls can make a huge difference in the way your office feels. It can even lower the noise inside the room, seeing as how the room itself will be better acoustically optimized. Overall, it is a minuscule investment when taking into consideration all the value you gain.
Managing your expectations is also quite important. Sure, soundproofing your ceiling may not completely eliminate the sound of footsteps above. However, it will bring it down to a level that you can mentally endure. The same goes with canceling out the outside noise.
While outfitting your office space with computers, you’ll have the privilege of buying peripherals like headphones, keyboards, etc., in bulk. Spending some extra time and money in order to get noise-canceling headsets and silent keyboards can make all the difference. Sure, on their own, the noise produced by a keyboard is not so problematic. Still, imagine dozens of people typing simultaneously.
Remember that a silent mouse and keyboard are designed for more than just providing less noise (about 90% less than their traditional counterpart). These items still have the optimal performance and are made in the optimal shape. They are known to boost productivity even for those who work from home, not just make an office noise-friendlier.
Dedicate Loud and Quiet Spaces
You can’t expect everyone to be comfortable with working in silence 24/7. Therefore, you need to find a way to give people all they need within the same office. The fairest (democratic) way to achieve this would be to divide the area into loud and quiet spaces.
Separating the break area is one of your first priorities. The furthest corner of the office (opposite the general work area) would be the best spot for this location. Also, you need to predict office foot traffic and then create a large enough corridor for movement. Speaking of which…
The Workstation Layout
Keep in mind that one more thing that contributes to the volume of the area is the way in which the desks are packed. If there’s not enough personal space, workstations will be more densely packed. As we’ve mentioned, a silent peripheral reduces the noise by 90% but not 100%. This means that the closer you are to the source of the noise (your coworker’s workstation), the louder the noise gets.
Aside from this, there’s the matter of foot traffic. Sure, a person walking by will produce foot traffic noise, but if they have to squeeze by you, it will get even more difficult. At this point, it becomes more than just a noise. A tactile distraction is much harder to understand.
Another thing you need to consider is trying to reduce the number of people in the office. The simplest way to do so is to have some people work remotely. Each person in the office is another source of the noise.
Sometimes, these are the basic processes that your employees can really do nothing about. Some people are even distracted by the breathing of their coworkers. People will sleep pattern problems will be especially irritable. Now, while it is not your duty to accommodate to their every whim, making an effort can make them more productive.
Reducing the noise will definitely reflect positively on the office productivity, as well as the overall employee satisfaction. Background noise can build up their anxiety and make them less comfortable in your office (often without even understanding why they feel this way). All it takes for them to make this connection (that they’re anxious on the office floor) is for them to leave as soon as they get a better opportunity. For these two reasons, the noise levels in your office are a top priority.