How To Soundproof Your Office

Offices are often busy and bustling places, filled with the sounds of business. There’s that additional printer noise, the shuffling of the papers, the water dispenser, and Joe, who somehow always manages to bring up multi-level marketing sales pitches. Honestly, is there any way to reduce all this noise?

To soundproof your office, you must follow these steps:

  1. Inspect the office for problem areas
  2. Measure for soundproofing material installation where possible
  3. Install soundproofing materials
How To Soundproof Your Office

So how exactly does this soundproofing thing work? And how does one get started with all this?

Sounds From The Office

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Before we talk about all the soundproofing and all the jargon involved, let us first talk about the sound coming from the office itself. Identifying sounds and their origins will eventually help us find solutions to better the office environment.

Studies indicate that office absenteeism and the decrease of employee productivity all stem from one source: noise.

According to an employee productivity study conducted by the British Gypsum in 2015, by simply reducing the noise in the workplace, the employees’ ability to focus increased by 50% meanwhile the stress levels reduced by 30%.

Save your employees some slack and start soundproofing your office.

So, where exactly does this noise stem from exactly? Most of the office noise is actually from a verbal source.

Other sources also include the nearby traffic jam, unsophisticated sound-making systems, ringtones from Elizabeth of R&D, that old air conditioning machine, and all that office stationery and the printer that needs its cartridge replaced— again.

You’ve got to clean that noise up. Primarily since more than 20 studies found out that noise can also cause cognitive impairment. So what exactly do we need to do? Soundproof and mitigate.

How To Soundproof Your Office

Before we proceed with mitigation, let us first employ physical renovations within the office to help reduce noise. It may be very intimidating and very confusing, especially when you do not know where to start.

This problem is the exact reason why we have outlined the steps for you to have an easier time soundproofing your office.

1. Inspect the Office for Problems Areas

This step is essential as this helps you understand what we’re working with here. Knowing what we’re going to tackle is critical when we’re doing a big project such as this. First, you must investigate the area and look for possible problem spots to get a clear view.

Doors and windows are weak links and leak maximum sound. Also look for cracks, gaps, vents and lightweight structures.

2. Measure for Soundproofing Material Installation

One of the essential parts of this step is to measure. We’ll identify how much material will be needed to cover the whole space by doing this activity.

To measure, first, you find out the dimensions of the room. This activity is for us to find out what will work best to soundproof. Recording your findings is a must.

After measuring and recording the dimensions, you will need to measure the sound levels within the room using a Sound Pressure Level or SPL.

The sound pressure level device is a device that measures the decibel or the amount of noise in a room. This device is essential so that you’ll know which part of the office has the most noise and thus, requires more action.

3. Install the Soundproofing Materials

soundproof material

Before we proceed, we must first understand that there are two types of soundproofing materials. The first type is called noise reduction. This soundproofing method is the type of soundproofing that reduces the noise in a particular room.

The second type is called noise absorption. This type of soundproofing focuses on mitigating the already present noise and reduces reverberation.

Noise Reduction

For noise reduction, it is essential to keep the present noise levels as low as possible. One way to implement this is to put partitions within a single room to isolate the noise.

Be sure to use partitions that have good STC or sound transmission classes. It’s one of the ways to soundproof your office. 

Noise Absorption

The noise absorption method is the process one will associate with the most when we talk about soundproofing. This method is where we’ll install materials that absorb sound that avoids leaking sound into another room.

The first thing you’ll need to consider is to install door weather strippings. This step is vital as this can help muffle sounds, especially noise from other rooms and vice versa. Most door weather strippings, especially the peel and stick ones, are cheap and easy to install.

Another critical thing to consider is to install wall hangings. Wall hanging are essential points for consideration because hard surfaces are notoriously stubborn and reflect noise like it’s mayday. Wall hangings, especially those spiked foam cover walls, are famous for their outstanding sound absorption abilities.

One part of soundproofing people usually forget about is the floor. A great way to soundproof using your floor is to put wool carpets and rugs. Notorious for their excellent sound absorption abilities, carpets can absorb 35 to 70% of all airborne noise.

However, you’ll need to know that soundproofing does not mean that your room will be acoustically good. Soundproofing only concerns noise; meanwhile, the acoustics in a room puts extreme focus on a great listening experience. (3)

Mitigation

Even though soundproofing is already in place, this wouldn’t work if we don’t reduce the noise made within the office. This gap in mitigation is why we will need to assess the current noise sources and try to minimize them to a minimum. The list below shows the steps you can employ to reduce noise from the office.

Impose Strict Quiet spaces

Although offices are highly social environments, imposing strict quiet places helps employees identify which areas are exclusive to just working.

The imposition of strict quiet places is to help within the imposition of boundaries within the office further. Solo work areas are the number one priority for a strict quiet space imposition.

Sometimes mitigating the noise is the best way to soundproof your office.

Impose Social Spaces

As said earlier, offices are highly social environments. Inviting your employees to cooperate and share ideas is as crucial as imposing quiet places.

Social spaces also help build a social connection between employees, a huge help that makes the office a good work environment, fostering human relationships.

Most offices incorporate these spaces through meeting rooms, pantries, game rooms, and the like. These spaces should encourage the spirit of teamwork and competition. Having places where your employees can destress is essential.

Improving Office Machines

Have you ever worked in an office where the printer from a peer’s desk is just excruciatingly noisy?

I’m sure all of us have been there. The noisy printer, the buzzing air conditioner, and all those constant notifications from a peer’s phone– all these noises may distract you from your work.

It may not be so shocking but fixing or employing strategies to improve these noise creators are not so easy— and not so cheap either. However, in the long run, these investments may pay off.

For example, new model printers are not as noisy as those old models, and they print much better and are more efficient too!

For air conditioners, employing sound absorbent materials such as blankets and the like are suitable countermeasures against these sound makers.

As for those annoying notification noises, the imposition of a silent mode rule on all phones in the offices will be very helpful.

Three Quietly Asked Questions About Office Soundproofing

How do you soundproof glass offices?

Most of the options here focus on the concrete side of offices. How about glass offices then? How do you soundproof your office made of glass without sacrificing much of the design?
Putting wall hangings around glass offices is not a very good option. The reasoning behind this is because it heavily hampers the aesthetics. 
Soundproofing your doors and installing sound-absorbing curtains are the way to go. Additionally, sound-absorbing curtains aid in noise reduction, but they also help increase privacy within the office.
Rugs work just as well as they do in concrete offices. Just make sure to install one that fits the office’s theme or color scheme.

Can I use white noise and the likes to reduce unwanted noise in the office?

You can! Research studies indicate that adding music that doesn’t have speech (or if it does, it comes from a foreign source) within the genres of lo-fi music or cafe music can help reduce noise within the office.
Our brain does not recognize noise itself as distracting; however, intelligible speech is often considered distracting. Masking is the process of masking unwanted noise through the employing of non-distracting noise. 

Can I use flora to reduce noise?

One natural way to employ soundproofing is to plant plants within the office through green walls and the like. Plants can absorb noise as well as increase oxygen levels in the office. Neat, right?

Sources

  1. https://www.grainger.com/know-how/industry/commercial/kh-how-to-soundproof-an-office
  2. https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/interior-projects/how-to/g2470/soundproofing-a-room/
  3. https://build.com.au/what-soundproofing
  4. https://axiomworkplaces.com.au/our-insight/sound-effects-the-impact-of-noise-on-employee-productivity/
  5. https://www.steelcase.com/research/articles/topics/open-plan-workplace/much-noise/
  6. https://hbr.org/2015/03/stop-noise-from-ruining-your-open-office
  7. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/realestate/2005/03/12/a-good-wall-even-if-its-made-of-plants-can-reduce-highway-noise/07eaa1fe-3397-4d26-a959-1f3d15029b7a/#:

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