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Quiet Please: How to Deal With Open Plan Workspace Noise

Richard Conn
Quiet Please: How to Deal With Open Plan Workspace Noise

As a result of the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of workers naturalized to remote work. And many companies have continued using the hybrid work models they were compelled to establish in 2020 and 2021.

But you'll find people now resorting to using coworking spaces to escape their home but still not be at work while working. Coworking spaces have even influenced communication platform definitions for teams and companies.

Background noise is a primary factor contributing to employees' inability to focus while at work. Therefore, coworking space owners must find a way to rid the open area of noise distractions. This measure will ensure repeat business from busy professionals looking for a quiet place to meet their deliverables. It is a scenario that can only foster your growth in the coworking space business.

Read on for suggestions on how to lessen the din in your open office space, boost morale, and make life easier for members using your facility.

​What Constitutes Noise in an Open Plan Workspace?

Noise may be interpreted in a variety of ways. Therefore, it's ultimately up to the discretion of each business owner to determine what exactly constitutes noise. Depending on the office layout, noise may come from various sources. Typical sources include people's conversations, footsteps, notifications from the best office phone systems, outside noises, and more.

To maximize productivity, you need to know how to meet the demands of your diverse workplace tenants. For example, not everyone thrives in a deathly quiet room. Conversely, a wall clock's tick-tock may inhibit others' concentration levels. A grasp of the diversity of work nature of people using your open workspace will help you make the best noise reduction decisions.

Noise Cancellation Ideas for Your Open Space

Human-generated noise consists of inevitable interactions with other people and objects in the workspace. It may be impossible to eliminate human-generated noise. But there are steps you may take on both a personal and broader level to mitigate its effects.

1. Table Rearrangements

Rearranging desks is a fast and easy solution to the problem of human-caused noise in an open workplace. Desks are typically arranged in rows because this layout makes the most efficient use of available space.

However, this may lead to noise across rows depending on the nature of the personal and inter-team work ongoing. One option is to rearrange desks so that professionals in similar work niches sit together. Also, those who work as a team get to be together.

Desks arrangement at a coworking space

This measure won't make the open space completely silent. But it should help reduce the amount of noise that travels to other areas. Fortunately, there are many viable alternatives to the traditional desk arrangement, which you can explore with a workspace interior designer.

2. Engender a Culture of Respect in the Space

A respectful work environment can go a long way towards mitigating distractions accompanying an open floor facility. Some people just can't keep their noise levels down. There's always that guy throwing jibes at other coworking space users. Such folks are always in high spirits and often constitute a “noise hazard.”

Therefore, fostering an environment where people respect one another in times like these is crucial. Process Bliss business management books have chapters discussing dealings with customers. The trick here is to foster respect for other coworkers by politely telling off noisy users.

Let the errant worker know they’re inhibiting productivity within the workspace. But, more importantly, there should be consequences for repeat offenses.

3. Create Designated Quiet Places

Creating designated quiet areas to isolate 'focus' work from 'noisy' activities is a fantastic strategy. It's excellent for increasing efficiency in your open space facility.

A cost-effective option is mounting freestanding partitions or moveable walls lined with soundproof fabric. While it's unrealistic to anticipate perfect sound isolation from such walls, they do have some sound-dampening capacity to help with the problem of excessive noise and echo in the workplace.

Also, polycarbonate or glass panels used in a barrier can reflect sound. This reflection makes it more difficult for either internal or external noise to travel through the room. These materials make your open space more peaceful and private for different employees.

However, they don't do an excellent job absorbing noise. Therefore, any sounds emitted within the area may be heightened. In addition, noises such as table shifts or yells from coworkers are also not muffled. So, seek help understanding the best materials to demarcate your space for optimized noise reduction.

Make it easier for users to access your coworking space services with just a few taps

4. Provide Noise Canceling Headphones

Some members may be more easily distracted by background noise than others. Therefore, providing noise-canceling headphones is a great way to help coworkers with concentration issues due to ambient noise. The white noise feature on many headphones is useful for blocking out distracting ambient noise.

Coworking space member wearing headphones

Additionally, a white noise machine is one of the latest technologies to install in your coworking space. They help disguise ambient noise, allowing your workplace tenants to concentrate and do more.

5. Advocating Asynchronous Communication

It’s your responsibility to design initiatives to reduce noise and increase quiet time in your open-plan workspace. One proven strategy is to ensure all remote business meetings and conferences happen simultaneously and in different rooms. Therefore, suggest asynchronous communication for remote teams using your workplace. If adopted, you can have synchronization of conversation time throughout your facility.

6. Install Sound Controlling Office Partitions

Any sound can be amplified and reverberated in a large open office area with many empty walls. And this possibility is regardless of how slight the noise may sound.

This issue can be a source of distraction for workers and potentially impact their output. Therefore, we recommend installing sound-absorbing acoustic wall panels or ceiling panels. This endeavor helps lessen the disruptive effects of background noise in your open office facility.

7. Use Carpet Flooring

Hard surfaces are a key source of the noise problem in open-plan workplaces. Therefore, covering the floor and walls as much as possible can help mitigate the issue. It’s impossible to keep open-plan workspaces completely quiet. After all, presentations and team meetings are part of the work and often require a bit of noise.

Imagine a team having a session on how to set up a VoIP phone from home, and the speaker's voice is quite loud. The trick is to keep this noise contained to a designated section of the open office.

We recommend carpets. Carpet can help quiet an open office in much the same way acoustic panels and office dividers can. Unlike tiles and hardwood flooring, carpets assist in echo reduction. Carpets muffle the sound of footsteps and objects clacking on the floor. Additionally, it softens the impact of harder sounds like chairs or desks scraping on the hardwood.

8. Use Fabric Office Furniture

Picking appropriate pieces of furniture may be an underappreciated tool in the fight against open office noise. Hard office furniture is similar to other bare surfaces in that it won't absorb sound and may even enhance noises. On the other hand, fabric seating can absorb and muffle ambient noise. This action, in turn, results in lesser distraction for employees using your open office space.

Soft furniture at a coworking space

In a nutshell, never sideline the effectiveness of a well-placed fabric couch, chair, or acoustic privacy screen. You'll be surprised at the amount of resonance and extra noise you'll eliminate in your open-plan office.

9. Install Plants and Explore Creative Noise Reduction Office Designs

Don't be hesitant to get imaginative with your workplace decor. Plants not only help to soften the sound of your workplace. But they also add some much-needed hue and natural aesthetics. You may do more than improve your workspace users' day by strategically arranging plants in locations that reflect and magnify sounds, such as bare walls and corners.

10. Use Acoustic Pods

Pods are a fantastic option for partitioning off quiet areas in an open office layout. And this measure is excellent for users of your space who need peace but share your space with employees like those who run warehousing processes. These people mostly have to receive calls and talk for long periods.

But the pods are equipped with soundproofing materials that prevent noise from entering the space and reverberating through the office.

The right acoustic pod for your open workspace depends mainly on your budget and customer needs. For example, it may be a desk area enclosed in acoustic screens or a whole room designed to muffle outside noise. You can weigh the volume, usefulness, and suitability of various pod designs.

Side note: Check out this article: A Guide to Choosing Perfect Phone Booths for Your Coworking Space.

A Quiet Coworking Space is a Good Business

Many options exist for muffling sound in an open office setting. And several different communications platforms and resources are available for doing so.

Start by understanding the category of remote professionals you get at your open-plan workspace facility. Then, assess their noise-related needs and leverage any of the tips described above to deliver a quiet, focus-enhancing workspace.

The article was written by Richard Conn, the Senior Director for Demand Generation at 8x8, a leading PBX telephone platform with integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. Richard is an analytical & results-driven digital marketing leader with a track record of achieving major ROI improvements in fast-paced, competitive B2B environments. Richard has also written for other domains such as Invoca and Yesware. Check out his LinkedIn.

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