Jun 24, 2024

The Importance of Soundproofing in Open-Plan Offices: Why It Matters

Blog post about The Importance of Soundproofing in Open-Plan Offices

Effective noise control in open-plan offices is crucial for maintaining a strong work culture and high employee satisfaction. Forward-thinking companies ensure that the physical office reflects their values and vision. In this article, we explore the impact of noise in open-plan offices and offer practical solutions to mitigate it, thus creating a thriving work environment.

Understanding the impact of working in a noisy office

How we feel about noise in the office is highly subjective, and people respond differently to visual and auditory stimuli in their physical environment. Depending on your personality and coping skills, you might have a higher or lower threshold for noise than your colleagues.

Some people prefer a loud and buzzing environment where they feel energized and inspired by those around them. Some enjoy hearing chatter from their nearest colleagues, while others seek a quiet area where you can hear a needle drop.

No matter your personal preference, working in noisy environments can impact productivity and work satisfaction levels. Motivating hybrid workers to come into the office becomes difficult, as they may prefer their cozy and quiet home office instead of dealing with daily disruptions.

When people don’t appreciate being in the office, companies struggle to maintain a strong work culture and employee loyalty. In the end, the physical office is an extension of the company’s vision and values.

Being able to switch between the home office and the actual office creates a perfect work-life balance. An increasing number of companies are recognizing the benefits of installing sensors to monitor and maintain occupancy rates. Real estate doesn’t come cheap, after all.

What kind of office noise causes problems?

Noise pollution is a real issue. To reduce the amount of disruptive sounds in the office, we will explore different noises that bother people and possible ways to fix them.

Low frequency sounds

Certain sounds with a high pitch or low, murmuring characteristic can almost feel like torture. No wonder that different sounds have been used as a controversial interrogation tactic in the army. When Stuka bombs fell from planes in World War II, the strong noise filled people with fear, long before the actual impact. Twice the terror.

A study conducted by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health states that low frequency causes annoyance but could also contribute to fatigue and headaches.

Some examples of excruciating sounds, nevertheless far from being bombs, in the modern office are:

  • Noise from ventilation
  • Chugging printers
  • Humming fluorescent lights

A visitor might not notice it at first, but for someone who sits permanently at their desk, the level of irritation will increase week by week. That is most likely the reason that office and space managers overlook the impact of low frequency sounds.

Sound reduction solution:

When you become aware of the sources of low-frequency sounds, you can consider the placement of certain technical units and adjust the HVAC in the building. When designing new workspaces, why not map out the sources of noise and place the desks further away from the ventilation or windows? Keep the server and printer rooms away from working areas, meeting rooms, and conference rooms.

White noise machines that mask background noise are becoming increasingly popular. They produce a soothing and discreet sound and can easily be placed anywhere. Some examples are the sound of drizzling water or gentle waves. It's like fighting fire with fire.

Ambient music playing in the background, accompanied by a water installation, is both welcoming for visitors and brings serenity to the office.

Various background noise

Scraping chairs, loud laughter, and buzzing phones are some examples of common office noises. External noise, such as honking cars, big trucks, or road work, also causes annoyance in the workplace. You get the picture.

Sound reduction solution

Rugs reduce the sound of footsteps when someone walks in the hallway. They absorb sound and also serve as a nice interior piece that brings a cozy vibe to the office. Don’t forget to match the rugs with other sound-absorbing textiles, such as curtains. As an added bonus, these can also block out light from outside. You also have the option to install them around specific workstations to create the illusion of separate rooms.

Soundproofing all floors by placing an underlay beneath them is another solution. When people walk on hard floors or drop items, the sound is reduced. Underlays are easy to install and are non-allergenic compared to rugs.

When it comes to furniture, there are endless opportunities to block out noise. Furniture acts as physical barriers between different workspaces. The placement of desks can reduce the amount of sound waves, and you can choose chairs that make less noise when moved around.

Last but not least, acoustic panels can function as a design piece and reduce the amount of noise in the building.


Did you know that speaking on the phone in the same room as other people increases stress? Hearing only one side of a conversation instead of both sides is said to be much more annoying than listening to two people talking in the same room. According to Science Daily, it also reduces our concentration.

Sound reduction solution:

Open-plan offices are great for many reasons, but some calls are best handled in private to avoid disturbing coworkers. The best approach is to offer meeting rooms or smaller booths where people can call external clients or join a remote team on Teams or Slack for a video call.

Teams where collaboration is necessary, such as customer service or marketing, can be seated further from other departments where silence is needed to focus on detail-oriented tasks like accounting.

Using desk dividers in open-plan offices is a great idea. You don’t need to set up a whole room if you want to group together a team of collaborating individuals. However, they do create a physical barrier that blocks out sound. You can be creative with the layout since they come in different colors, fabrics, and materials. Muted colors are preferred, but in some cases, a pop of color can fit right into a minimalistic office space.

A transparent desk divider lets the light shine in and creates an airy space. It is also possible to use low, wooden shelves with plants to add some beautiful and lush elements.

Another quick solution is to provide employees with noise-canceling headphones, which is convenient if you don’t have the budget to make substantial changes right now.

Soundproofing in open offices: a summary

Open-plan offices are great for fostering collaboration and communication among employees. However, the noise levels in these spaces can be distracting and harm productivity. Fortunately, there are several effective strategies to reduce noise levels in open-plan offices.

These strategies include using acoustic panels, desk dividers, white noise machines, carpeting and rugs, soundproofing curtains, and strategically arranging furniture. By implementing these solutions, you can create a quieter and more productive workspace. Investing in office soundproofing can significantly enhance the overall success of your business.

Want guidance on how to set up your hybrid office for success?

Feel free to schedule a meeting with one of our product experts to learn more about our solutions and how technology can help you streamline your office processes without interfering with employees' day-to-day work.

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