How to Dampen Noise in the Workplace

2016-12-01T19:13:53+00:00April 28th, 2015|Workplace Design|

I start and end my day with a train ride. Usually it’s my quiet time, but sometimes it gets interesting. During rush hour, especially on a Friday afternoon, I hear conversations about bosses, discussions on sports and brainstorming about what to eat for dinner. In the morning, I get tutorials on how to apply make-up, which I find very educating.  All in all, I find my train rides entertaining, but would I feel the same if I were in the office?

Nope, because we do intellectual work in the workplace that requires concentration to accomplish our tasks. As we all know, idle chit chats in the office are distracting.  According to a Steelcase article, “There is plenty of research that shows that the most destructive sound of all is other people’s conversations.” – Julian Treasure, chairman of a United Kingdom-based consultancy, The Sound Agency. Honestly, I do not need a study to prove it because some of us live it everyday.  As leaders, we should be able to provide an acoustically comfortable workplace. Noise, or unwanted sounds like idle talking, ringtones and nearby construction can cause stress.  On the flip side, we can’t keep everyone from conversing with one another.  One of the many points of having an open workplace is to encourage collaboration, correct? But how about our productivity amidst the noise?  Here are 4 ideas on how to depress noise in the workplace.  

headphones, privacy, workplace


Here are 4 ideas on how to depress noise in the workplace.

  1. Sound travels. Like water, it gets through just about anything. Just because you have a door and wall, it does not mean you are completely isolated. A wall has to be built with sound batting and built to the deck to have better sound privacy. In addition, dot your space with quiet areas for personal phone calls like phone booths as well as team areas for meetings.
  2. Evaluate where the noise is coming from. The usual culprit is the break room. Break rooms are gathering places, and if there is a TV, people oftentimes hang around. So think about how you want this area used before installing a flat screen, for instance. Control what is being shown, where it is being shown, and set it to an acceptable volume.
  3. Sound can travel and bounce around. Consider using soft materials such as carpet, rugs, acoustical ceiling tiles and soft seating. If you plan on having open ceilings, which is now a trend, think about limiting it to certain areas. Sound absorption panels or clouds are also good ceiling alternates.
  4. Pipe in white noise to mask background office noise.

You might tune it all out by wearing headphones, but this is a temporary fix. Think about the noise issue holistically, because the workplace should provide you with all the tools that will make you more productive.