Taming The (Noisy) Open Floor Plan

It’s no surprise that open floor plans have been and continue to be the popular design direction for workplaces. They promote collaboration, easily accommodate hoteling and hot desking, and provide flexibility for different functions. Plus the lack of interior walls permits as much natural light as possible to flow through a space, contributing to a bright and positive atmosphere.

Then… a team gathers for a brainstorming session or someone begins a Teams or Zoom discussion. The noise generated from these interactions travels throughout the office and impacts the individuals and work being done within it. Sounds from conversations, keyboards, the kitchen – it all contributes to distractions as well as unintentional privacy breaches.

The good news is an open concept need not be abandoned. These acoustic concerns can be addressed with some planning and consideration, while still maintaining the space and an open feeling. Whether you are renovating your current space or planning a new one, here are some key areas to focus on. By doing so you will improve the acoustics in the space and tame the noise.

Incorporate sound-absorbing furnishings and materials

Offices naturally have lots of hard surfaces, from desks to conference tables to windows, perfect bounce points for sound waves. Using sound-absorbing materials whenever possible in the office will help noise from rebounding. As you consider furnishings and materials be sure to also take a look at walls and ceilings. The addition of acoustic panels can help soak up sounds, reducing noise levels. Plus they are not the acoustic tiles of the 1970s. Today’s tiles are modern looking even serving as wall art and contributing to the design aesthetic of the space.

Bring the outdoors in

The intentional use of plants in the office – biophilic design – can spruce up a space and help keep noise levels down. Another superpower of plants is their ability to help with indoor air quality and give a vibe of tranquility. As you create your green plan consider that all plants don’t need to be potted. Green or living walls are bold design features in a workspace and are also great at helping dull the roar of interior noise.

Add noise through sound-masking

While this may be a counterintuitive thought, adding the right type of noise can improve acoustics and prevent distractions. Referred to as sound-masking this technology has the added benefit of protecting speech privacy. Different from adding white noise to a space, sound-masking is engineered to match the frequency of speech and is an ambient sound similar to the sound of airflow. This matching to speech makes conversational sounds less intelligible and consequently less distracting.

Create quiet areas, zones, and spaces

Private spaces for confidential conversations and focused concentration are essential in an office plan. These permit workers to step away, avoid distractions, and buckle down. But it does go beyond simply having that type of space available. Audio visual capabilities within each area will accommodate and support connections with remote colleagues, clients, and vendors. Additionally, each of these quiet spaces should have the same setup and technology. That way people do not have to learn different systems based on the room they are in, reducing employee stress and wasted time.

Planning with a focus on these ideas will help you create a workspace that is open and collaborative, while still being peaceful and pleasant acoustically. The technology experts at Rethink Innovations can help you plan your environment to meet the goals of your business, raising the functionality and enjoyment of your space.

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