Whether you work in an open-plan office setup, one with cubicles, at home or other setup, unwanted noises are a bane to your focus and overall productivity. The noise may come from your chatting coworkers, a sound system or other source. Either way, you need a remedy for the same.
Noise causes many issues at work including high blood pressure, hearing loss, lost productivity, stress related diseases, speech interference, sleep disruption and many others. As much noise as 85 decibels is considered distracting. You thus need to eliminate as much of the unwanted sounds in your work area as possible.
A lot of the solutions available are focused on muffling the sound from other sources through absorption or keeping the sound from actually reaching you. The solutions you implement will depend on many aspects including whether you own the office or are an employee. This is because some of them are quite extensive and will require the permission of your boss first.
Best Office Soundproofing Ideas
Some of the best ideas to keep your working space noise-free and your focus intact include the following:
1. Add softer furnishings in the office
Besides the sources of noise, echoes and sound amplification all contribute to the noise pollution in the office. You can deal with these by adding furniture or other items in the office. These items absorb, reflect and distort the sound with the result that the noise is reduced by a great extent.
For example, having furniture with soft fabrics makes for a great sound absorption option given that a large part of the sound beamed to the furniture will be absorbed and, if reflected back, will be reflected in different directions. The noise dies down this way.
Some of the items you can add include book shelves, plants, furniture, desk items and many others. The focus is to avoid too many open spaces and shiny surfaces from which sound can bounce and cause noise and echoes.
2. Fill up cracks and other openings in the wall
This is especially true for cubicles where sound can pass through the wall and into your workspace. If your cubicle is next to a corridor where there’s a lot of foot traffic, you’re likely to face the noise problem quite often.
To solve this, simply seal off any cracks, holes and any other books and crannies in the wall. Some options to use include acoustic caulk, foam, and pieces of paper and cloth. If the part of the wall affected is a large one, you can even move a whole cabinet to block it off.
3. Add acoustic panels to your working space
Also called soundproof foam panels, acoustic panels are what music and broadcast studios use to control sound in spaces. They cost a bit but are a great addition to your workplace if you’re looking for a minimal yet effective way of keeping the noise in control.
They control both noise from outside and within, and any echoes that may develop in your cubicle. You only need to attach them to the walls and ceiling to solve the noise issue. You may be required to consult with your boss before using them as they change the look of your office to an extent.
4. Increase the height of your cubicle walls
Most cubicle walls are a bit higher than a tall person. While this height is a good one for privacy and reduction of some noises, it still allows in lots of sound especially in a noisy office. The solution would be the increasing their height to the ceiling or, if the ceiling is too high, well above the noises.
For this option, you can choose between adding some wall panels above the current ones or simply getting new cubicle walls altogether. You can take this opportunity to add walls with soundproofing capabilities such as those with a honeycomb design. This design is effective in deflecting sound to reduce or eliminate what sound reaches the inside the office.
5. Use a white noise machine
Also called sound conditioners, white noise machines produce a neutral sound that’s not distracting and that drowns out the other sounds in the office. The result is that you’ll have a noise that’s constant and not irritating in any way. It’s the reason these machines are recommended for those with insomnia.
The reason we like this solution is that it doesn’t require installing any items or other costly procedures. Instead, you just buy the machine, plug it in the power source and you’re ready to focus on your work without distractions. If it’s small enough, you can even carry it home for your home office.
6. Add hanging acoustic panels to the ceiling
Like acoustic panels added to the walls of your office, acoustic panels hanging from the ceiling have the effect of muffling any wayward sounds in the office. They do this by eliminating any sound reverberations in an open space.
Acoustic panels hanging from the ceiling are even used as alternatives to walls for cubicles since their effects on sound is just as good. In offices where privacy isn’t so much an issue but noise is, these panels are better than wall panels. They are, however, quite pricey and will need some investment for a medium-sized office.
7. Rearrange the office
At times, you don’t need to construct anything in the office to keep the noise and other sounds under control. Instead, you can just rearrange it such that the noisy teams are located away from the quiet ones. This is an easy solution to the issue of some noisier workers working in teams while others are working alone and need silence. You can even have the louder teams working in soundproof areas to keep their noises under control.
8. Upgrade the phone systems
Among the most common types of noises in the office is that of employees talking on the phone. The typical phone systems with a dial and earpiece/mouthpiece combination are culprits to this since they make one want to raise their voice to be heard clearly on the other end.
You can upgrade them to a headset and microphone system which is much more intimate and requires less shouting to be heard. They also eliminate the need to use their telephones on speaker.
9. Talk to your coworkers
One simple (yet difficult) method of dealing with noise in the office is to simply make it known to your workmates that they should be careful with the noise. The easy part is coming up with the words to say to them. The hard part is actually telling them without coming across as proud and egoistic.
The best way would be to go through the management. This way, they can set rules on how to use phones, talk to colleagues and other activities. Discussions can also be held quietly to avoid noise issues.
10. Use white noise fans
If getting a white noise machine is out of your reach financially, you can get a white noise which does the same task on a budget. Besides a calm humming which does away with other sounds, it also keeps your office cool.
11. Use soundproof curtains
A cheaper and more convenient alternative to acoustic panels is soundproof curtains. These can be hanged on your cubicle walls to keep out the noise from outside and prevent any noises you make from getting outside. They also eliminate the echo in the room making for a quiet working experience.
12. Cushion the floor
After the walls, the floor is the next surface in terms of the amount of sound reflected back into the room. This causes lots of echo and distorted sounds (noise).
You can prevent this by adding some form of padding on the floor. This can be a carpet or a series of rags all around the room. If there’s any open space on the floor, cover it with a rag or carpet. For this one, the thicker the padding, the better the sound muffling you’ll get. Attention-drawing shoes will be effectively dealt with. Besides that, you also get to enjoy a more comfortable floor.
13. Pad the walls
Adding fabric or another form of cushioning to the wall helps a lot in keeping unwanted sounds outside your cubicle. You can use moving blankets which are used to wrap furniture when being moved. Given their thick nature, they’re one of the best and cheapest options for padding your wall against unwanted sounds.
14. Create booths for loud sounds
Booths for taking long calls such as those from clients or conferences should be set aside such that the employee is still able to express themselves without restrictions. Conference halls are also to be set aside for conference calls and meetings.
In a similar fashion, areas meant for total silence need to be constructed for those who wish to carry out highly critical work that doesn’t need any interruptions. You can even have a sign on the door indicating whether the room is in use or not.
15. Noise noise canceling headphones/earphones
For a very individualistic solution, buying yourself high quality earphones or headphones with the noise-canceling feature is a step in the right direction. These can be put on and if you don’t want to listen to music, you can just keep them on to keep out the noise.
16. Use a door with a solid core
While we’ve been focused on cubicles and walls, sound can easily get to your office through the door especially if it has a hollow core. You can improve the ability of your door to keep noise outside (or inside) through these methods:
- Have a door with a solid core (solid wood instead of hollow panels)
- Add a bottom sweep
- Add a threshold seal
- Add vinyl weatherstripping
These do a lot in keeping out the noise.
With any one or a combination of these methods, you’ll be good to go as far as keeping your workspace quiet for your work.
- How can I make my office soundproof?
You can do this through the methods described above such as adding acoustic panels on the walls and ceiling, adding carpets to the floor and many others.
- How can I soundproof a room cheaply?
Some of the cheapest methods of soundproofing a room include using cheap foam, using moving blankets and having rags on the floor.
- How can you soundproof a hall?
A hall can be soundproofed in several ways including using acoustic panels on the walls and ceiling, and having a thick carpet on the floor.
- How do you make a soundproof DIY?
Some soundproofing strategies you can put to use at home include adding dry walls on your current wall, adding a layer of caulk between the wall and dray wall, adding mass-loaded vinyl (MLV) on the floor and walls, sealing all holes and crevices in the wall, adding acoustic panels to walls and the ceiling and many other measures described above.
- How do you make a soundproof booth?
The procedure for the construction of a sound booth is described in another article here.