How to plan your office soundscape
Privacy, knowing exactly whom you’re talking to and who is listening increases productive interactions is all part of designing your office soundscape. The background buzz of chit chat and a culture of “overhearing” actually inhibits collaboration. Recent studies are making it clear that noisy interruptions are making all of us a lot less productive in our open-concept offices.
The solution is not to send modern office workers back into their cubicles, or to create a hierarchy of leadership defined by group and private offices. Acoustics planning, also known as soundscaping, is a better solution.
Considering sound and background noise as elements of office design works toward noise reduction and increased productivity.
Office design has to plan for both privacy and collaboration. Creating spaces that differentiate between meeting rooms, areas for casual conversation and for group and individual work is a good start, but that is not where noise reduction and soundscaping ends.
Three tips to consider when designing offices for optimal acoustics.
1. Don’t be Baffled by Sound Baffles
Tenants are often responsible for adapting open use spaces for their own purposed. Converting wide open cinder block lofts designed for light industry to offices for white collar work is easy on the style side, more difficult on the sound side. Choices in ceiling tiles, raised flooring, wall placement and baffles around work areas help to determine the level of background noise. Prior to making any of these choices, tenants should look to a consultant to assess the Noise Curves Criteria (NC level) and how to manage it. According to a study conducted by Construction Specifier, no open office environment should have a level of higher than NC-40.
2. Consider the Furniture
Work stations with partitions that employ storage or shelving and accommodate high backed office chairs give workers an extra degree of privacy that has the added benefit of reducing background noise. Balancing hard surfacing with plusher upholstered surfaces also prevents sound reverberation that impacts others.
3. Watch Wall Coverings and Floor Coverings
Floor coverings and wall coverings help to visually differentiate work spaces, from collaborative spaces and places for casual interaction. They also help to absorb background noise before it can interfere with the concentration or attention span of others. While carpeting can impair workers with chemical sensitivities, allergies and conditions like asthma, areas rugs can be employed in high-traffic areas to reduce background noises. Likewise, wall coverings and art work both encourage hushed voices on phone calls and during conversations with colleagues.