14th Jul 2022

Sound Design: The Importance of Good Office Acoustics

When trying to entice people back to the office, the number one complaint you’ll hear is that there are too many distractions.

Excessive noise is one of the biggest productivity killers in the modern office. Noisy kettles/fans, office equipment, and conversations, both business and personal, can fill a room with auditory distractions.

But what if we told you that you could work in a full, bustling office, with equipment and conversations galore, and still hear yourself think?

The solution lies in office acoustic design!

The Impact of Office Noise on Wellbeing

Now, you might be thinking, “noises and conversations are just a part of office life”, and in most cases, they are. Because outside of physical functionality and visual aesthetics, many companies don’t pay much attention to the layout and design of their office. But these distractions can have many implications on your personal wellbeing.

Stress

Loud, noisy environments are one of the main sources of stress in the office.
Millions of years ago, our ancestors were constantly on the lookout for predators, so were constantly listening for noises from the environment. These noises were fed to the brain to trigger a response, literally to keep them alive and safe. And our brains still hold on to this survival instinct. Loud or unexpected sounds can therefore trigger a ‘fight or flight’ response, spiking our heart rates, increasing our blood pressure, and inducing stress.

Privacy

The Human Givens approach lists privacy as one of our basic human needs. This is because our brains need time each day to grow, absorb information, and to relax and rest. This is only truly possible when we can focus, free from distractions.

If we don’t have this private time, our brains start to ‘drop’ information instead of retaining it, leading to low productivity levels and further stress.

Fatigue

When you’re distracted by noise, your brain is working twice as hard to stay focused and productive. This can lead to higher levels of fatigue, brain fog and an unhealthy work-life balance. What’s more, fatigue can quickly lead to burnout, and in extreme cases, illness.

Acoustic Solutions

When you think about acoustic features, your first thought might be spiky foam (or even egg boxes) on the walls. While these may work (the former more than the latter!), there are now endless hidden, and even stylish, stand-out solutions that provide major acoustic improvements!

Acoustic Pods and Seating

As with most strategies, the best solutions tackle the source of the problem, in this case, this is office chatter. Meetings, both in-person and online, can flood the space around them with noise. To remedy this, the best solution is to install acoustic dampening seats and meeting pods.

Acoustic pods at REAL Education’s campus

High-backed fabric chairs, sofas, and Meeting pods such as these Bea pods from JDD Furniture absorb soundwaves and vibrations from the source. This means that less sound is bounced around the office, keeping conversations private.

Acoustic Screens

One of the easiest office acoustic improvements to make is the installation of acoustic screens. Smaller screens can be easily added to any existing desk to provide a noise-blocking barrier, capturing small talk and collaborative chatter. Larger screens, such as these Steelcase Flex Acoustic Boundaries can be placed around the office to create impromptu noise-isolation areas.

A Steelcase Flex Acoustic Boundary in use at the Futures Housing Group Office

If it’s a more fixed solution you’re after, these Orangebox Coppice workstations are perfect for quiet work.

An Orangebox Coppice array in use at the Futures Housing Group Office.

Acoustic Accessories

When it comes to acoustic accessories, some of the best solutions blend seamlessly with the surroundings. Wall panels, light fittings and ceiling fixtures can all act as hidden acoustic dampeners.

This light fitting installed at the Cadeby Homes Office doubles as an acoustic feature

Bare walls and ceilings are the biggest culprits when it comes to sound reverberation. These hard, flat surfaces bounce noises back across the rooms, creating echoes and making loud noises even louder. While rounded and textured walls can combat this, ceiling panels are a stylish fix that can absorb noises and quieten echoes.

Acoustic Ceiling Panels in use in our WorkLife Central Office

 

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something more mobile that doesn’t need attaching to walls or ceilings, acoustic totems and columns are a great solution.

 

Do we have a photo of the acoustic totems at WLC?

Experience the wonders of office acoustics

Our office, WorkLife Central, is the place to visit to see just how much of an impact office acoustics can make. If you’d like to arrange a visit to see (or hear) it for yourself, fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Author:

Chloe Sproston

Creative and Commercial Director