An open concept office is a beautiful thing — studies show a wide open space that supports collaboration and cooperation on a large scale cannot only help boost employee productivity and efficiency, but overall happiness and well-being as well.
When offices combine a large number of people in a single space, there’s inevitably going to be more noise that accompanies working together. This can be accentuated even more when employees resort to raising their voices to get their point across – creating a slippery slope for noise control efforts.
Cue office acoustics — powerful sound deadening solutions that help dampen and reduce the reverberation of sound while preserving the open concept layout of an innovative and modern open plan office space.
Elements of Control
Optimizing the sound quality of an open plan office environment is priority #1 when enlisting the help of improved office acoustics – but a close second is upholding a design-centric aesthetic that supports a cool, modern office that prioritizes workplace satisfaction.
Walls, Panels & Tiles
Having an open concept space doesn’t mean that your office won’t need a small space dedicated to individual conversations and moments of solitude. Employee lounges or meeting spaces are worth considering when investigating the addition of acoustic panelling.
As a general rule, hard surfaces reflect sound, while soft surfaces absorb sound. Having an exposed brick wall in your office – while that’ll score you major points on the style charts – perpetuate the reverberation of sound energy. Covering them up, at least in chunks with acoustic wall panels, helps control and limit the movement of sound in wide open spaces.
Acoustic tiles can be installed on walls in seating areas that prioritize meaningful communication. They come in a variety of acoustic materials that help dampen the reflection of sound in open spaces and create customized and stylish accents that add to the overall design aesthetic of your office environment. They can be tailored to match your brand identity, its colours and shapes, to reflect your organizational mantra and logo.
For situations that call for a fixed workplace solution, modular screens or erectable walls can give instant privacy and improved sound control to separate certain sections of your open plan office for more optimal concentration. Further, they can be left in place, or taken down and moved elsewhere, contributing to the open concept design and providing flexibility for employees who like to move around the office depending on their mood. Plus, when you need to open up the space, they can be stacked away neatly.
The very ideology of an open concept office is to empower employees to freely set up their ideal workstation wherever they please. To do that, modular spaces and furniture is critical – adding an acoustical aspect to office furniture is a powerful and effective way to target both sound control and office flexibility.
Acoustic furnishings are purpose-built with acoustical materials and integrated sound absorbing panels precisely where they’ll be most useful – right in the thick of the action, while eliminating impediments and interruptions to the office design itself. Everything from chairs, storage/filing solutions, desks, bookcases and shelves can easily be purchased or modified to include acoustic-sensitive materials.
Commonly known as baffles or clouds, ceiling mounted acoustic panelling is a great way to help reduce the reverberation of sound in spaces with tall ceilings, especially if your particular office space doesn’t have much to offer in the way of surface space to install classic panels.
Baffles typically are mounted downward so they can hang lower into the space, and so they can be installed with lighting in mind. Baffles are great solutions to sound pollution in an office because they can help minimize excess sound while not relying on the addition of walls that would otherwise crowd your open space.
The ground we walk on plays a huge role in how sound is able to transport itself. Imagine for a moment, being on a deck on a lake somewhere. There’s no breeze, and the water is flat as glass. There’s nearly a guarantee that you’ll be able to hear the conversation of the group across the lake, because of the way sound is able to travel in such a controlled environment. Open concept offices are much the same in that the flat, hard surface of the floor acts similarly to the lake – sound is able to easily traverse across it.
Area rugs, carpeting, and different types of sound-sensitive flooring material, like cork for example – offer fantastic sound proofing for more beneficial office acoustics.
While most acoustical additions like the ones we’ve discussed work towards the elimination of unwanted sound, these innovative systems are responsible for the addition of sound created via specialty digital generators and distributed through hidden speakers within an open concept office or other environment to reduce distractions and/or provide privacy.
Commonly referred to as white noise, or pink noise, noise masking systems produce broadband random sounds that conveys no identifiable sonic information – like dialogue, or a glass breaking, for example.
Open concept offices routinely develop a certain culture that revolves around a physical and psychological identity that we associate with partnership and collaboration. This aura of energy is responsible for the creation of company identity that all great brands strive for.
While the open concept office space are perfect for opening the communication and partnership floodgates, they’re also responsible for bringing their fair share of unique obstacles – namely increased noise. To combat unwanted sounds within the office, an investigation into the benefits of how office acoustics can play a beneficial role to optimizing productivity and happiness is always a good idea.