Modern office design comprises many different things, mostly related to aesthetic design. Companies want their office décor to represent not only their branding, but workplace philosophy and overall ethic. However, there’s another element that is just as important, yet regularly underestimated, and that’s the acoustics of the workspace.
Yes, sound plays an important part in overall employee happiness and workplace productivity, and unless your workplace has planned for it, you may inadvertently be making things much harder on your team. Here are the three most common problems associated with suboptimal acoustics in the workplace:
Even the most well-managed and professional office is still a cacophony of disruptive sounds, from ringing phones and noisy printers, to the constant pitter patter of foot traffic, and local water cooler gossip. Throughout the course of a single day, all this sonic mayhem becomes distracting, thereby limiting worker focus, which leads to reduced productivity and increased overall stress levels. However, this is part of the work day experience, which is why proper interior office design matters so much when it comes to cutting down on all the noise pollution.
Conversations in the workplace are back and forth from the moment the doors open, to when they close at the end of the day. Without proper acoustics, these conversations can become disrupted, and workers may have trouble communicating effectively. Remember, sound carries throughout an office space, while at the same time being reflected off of various materials and surfaces. Even a simple echo can cause communications to become distorted and difficult to follow. All it takes is one critical piece of information to miss its mark, and suddenly the entire office could have a problem on its hands.
LACK OF PRIVACY
Within the workplace, particularly if it sports an open office design, privacy tends to suffer. While this may not matter for employees who are focused solely on their work, it does have business-related ramifications. Sensitive conversations normally reserved for the ears of management may be overheard, as well as other scenarios that can cause friction between team members. The lack of acoustic privacy can result in a loss of productivity and, in some cases, confidentiality breaches, which you’ll definitely want to avoid. While a closed door office is one solution, the simple fact is that today’s companies have embraced the open concept to such a degree that they haven’t thought of the drawbacks.
These are all problematic, but there are plenty of efficient solutions to deal with them. At Sensyst, we understand the need for proper acoustic balance in the workplace, which is why we recommend and implement the following strategies, depending on the office environment in question. What works for some may not work for you, but rest assured, one or more of the following solutions will definitely help you achieve that perfect acoustic balance in your workspace.
1) ACOUSTIC PANELS
Strategically placed acoustic panels and baffles are capable of absorbing various sound sources, while reducing overall noise levels for the better. Best of all, these panels can be integrated into ceilings, walls or furniture to minimize sound reflections, without looking terrible in the process. Indeed, there are many contemporary acoustic panel designs out there that can compliment your overall office design motif, without ruining the décor.
2) SOUND MASKING
Sound masking involves a clever use of background ambient noise to mask distracting sounds, without becoming distracting on their own. This technology is nothing new, but it is particularly useful for companies who have adopted open office designs. Sound masking is mistakenly associated with white noise, but they are quite different in many respects. The overall ambient noise level of the office is increased in order to muffle and drown out conversations between team members. The idea is that the more intelligible a conversation between two people is, the less other workers will notice it. This, in turn, cuts down on distractions, and helps employees focus on their work, without feeling as if they’ve been locked in a padded room.
3) SPACE PLANNING
It may seem obvious, but this tip is often overlooked. Quite simply, your particular office layout plays a significant role when it comes to overall acoustic levels. As experts in the interior office design field, Sensyst understands that proper arrangement of workstations, meeting rooms and common areas can help minimize sound transfer, while balancing out acoustics so that workers can focus more on their tasks. This is not an exact science, since it depends entirely on your particular space. When in doubt, contact us so we can devise the right space planning strategy for your particular office.
4) MATERIALS & FINISHES
It’s no secret that careful selection of materials and finishes can impact the acoustic properties of any office, for better…or worse! When in doubt, consider soft materials like carpets, drapes, and acoustic ceiling tiles that can absorb sound traveling around your workspace. Hard surfaces such as glass and concrete will reflect it, which may sound like a negative, but not if used correctly. In the end, it’s the particular combination of materials that will strike the right kind of acoustic balance in any particular workspace.
5) PERSONAL SPACES
This tip goes double for any company operating in an open office environment. While you won’t need to break those horrible old cubicles out of mothballs in order to accomplish this feat, you will need to consider particular spaces where employees can have a little bit of personal time in order to gather their thoughts and clear their heads. Consider incorporating quiet zones into your open office design, or specialized soundproof booths where employees can retreat for greater focus, team meetings, or some good old fashioned de-stressing.
Acoustics tends to be the last thing on the list for many companies who are dreaming up their ideal contemporary office design. Yet, it’s especially important in order to create the right tonal balance that won’t chip away at the happiness and health of your employees. Proper sound balancing and acoustic absorption can nullify negative echoes and frequencies around your office, while helping employees focus happily on their tasks.
Not sure how to implement acoustic balancing into your existing or new office design? That’s why we’re here. Contact Sensyst today, and we’ll help you work out the perfect office design that takes acoustic balancing into account. From there, you’ll be well situated for greater productivity, happier staff, and better returns!