No Such Thing As A Quiet Cubicle

Here's what corporations can do to design quieter and more productive workspaces.

By Rikki Roehrich

When it comes to workplace distractions, noise tops the list. Studies have shown that acoustic distractions are the number one annoyance for office workers. From keyboard clicks to coworker chit-chat, noise affects our focus, cognition, and productivity. It also stresses us out leaving us frustrated, fatigued, and looking for solutions.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans say they consider the noise levels of work when making future employment decisions, according to an Employment & Work Acoustics Survey conducted by Wakefield Research.

Modern workplace layouts only seem to be making the problem worse: Open environments can become an echo chamber of telephone rings and watercooler conversations. Cubicles, while offering a quasi-private space, often lack the acoustics solutions to reduce the noise.

But noise doesn’t have to be such a problem. There are tools and techniques for managing the acoustics of your workplace.

Turning Noise Down And Productivity Up

The best time to tackle sound issues in a facility is during the design phase. Working closely with the building’s architect and design team can lead to better outcomes. Choosing the best office furniture, air purification system, lighting, and flooring can all aid in designing a quieter and more productive workspace.

Office Furniture

Pre-pandemic, the average office needed to allocate six desks per 10 employees. Today, with hybrid work models in effect, that ratio can be reduced to as low as three desks per 10 employees. This saved space has enabled agile workplaces that incorporate activity-based working, which allows workers to pick and choose settings throughout the office that fit their needs at a given time.

workplace noise
A Quiet Mark Certified Vetrospace Acoustic Office Pod incorporates critical health technology, including anti-microbial lighting, anti-viral nano-coating and clean-air ventilation.

This has given rise to new types of acoustic office furniture that have recently achieved Quiet Mark certification and inclusion in the Acoustics Academy platform of verified acoustic solutions for every building type: Products such as Vetrospace’s modular meeting rooms, pods, and phone booths; BlockO’s acoustic meeting pods; and BuzziSpace’s range of acoustic lighting and office furniture.

“There will always be work projects that are better done collaboratively, in groups of two or more people, together ‘in the sandpit’ so to speak, and tasks which are done better, quietly alone,” says Poppy Szkiler, CEO & CoFounder of Quiet Mark. “With further layers of care around the very different needs of being an extravert or introvert.””

Quiet Mark is a global certification program that provides consumers and facility executives, architects, and designers around the world with a short-cut to find the lowest-noise high-performance products and acoustic building materials.

“In view of that, companies may either have to adopt flexible hybrid models that allow employees to come into the workplace for collaborative tasks, and work from home when more suitable, or, if the company wants their staff to always come into the workplace, then that space needs to be designed in such a way that the noise that comes out of ‘the sandpit’, doesn’t interfere with the people trying to focus on their solo tasks, or have someone speaking loudly on a Zoom call, in a large open plan office, annoying their colleagues,” suggests Szkiler.

Air Purification

Concerns over the quality of the air circulating through our homes and offices were rising prior to Covid-19, and the amount of time we spent indoors during lockdown only served to reinforce these concerns. Evaluating your building’s air purification needs not only for effectiveness but for sound should be on your to-do list. Adding air purifiers to your office spaces and choosing a quiet one can help keep employees safe and productive.

Quiet Mark certified
The Quiet Mark certified Blueair HealthProtect / Protect Air Purifiers uses Blueair HEPASilent™ technology to remove virtually all airborne pollutants.
Lighting

Studies have shown that light and room acoustics have an undeniable impact on productivity, human interaction, and well-being. BuzziSpace has developed a wide range of pendant lights, floor lamps and chandeliers, where light, acoustics and aesthetics work in harmony. The company’s acoustic lighting not only looks attractive and lights up a space, it also reduces the excessive background noise in open spaces, meeting rooms, conference rooms, and lobbies.

workplace noise
BuzziSpace BuzziJet Acoustic Pendant Lighting

As an example, the Quiet Mark-certified BuzziJet Acoustic Pendant Lighting cylindrical design allows sound waves to bounce back and forth within the radius of its circular body, and in turn, mitigates noise. With its high density of acoustic material, this lighting solution works on the whole audible spectrum, from low to mid and high tones.

Flooring

Noise can be defined as any unwanted sound. The click of the heels of the fast-walking supervisor pacing across the office is a familiar example. LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile Flooring) provides the visual aesthetic of real wood or stone flooring, but with heightened acoustical performance. SOUNDPROTEC ECOLAY⁺ is NOX’s Quiet Mark-certified loose lay LVT flooring, offering high impact sound reduction; over 19-20dB reduced according to ISO 10140-3 tests.

workplace noiseRikki Roehrich is a seasoned content creator for a variety of small business brands. She has a passion for writing white papers, blogs, articles and educational materials on a variety of emerging trends in the marketplace.

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