The design of office interiors has changed immensely over the last fifty years. The Baby Boomer generation of the mid 1940’s to the mid 1960’s typically had office spaces with either private offices or large 8’x 8’ cubicles with 85” or 67” high partitions that gave workers privacy, but as time went on the partitions and cubicle sizes began to shrink significantly. Now, the typical office space has 47”- 53” height partitions, or none at all.
In the millennial age, private offices virtually disappeared and in their place open and collaborative spaces have been added. This shift placed workers in desk spaces no larger than 48”x 24”. This new style of work environment is almost expected by graduating high school and college students because they were born during this shift and are conditioned to work in these spaces, but what about those who were not conditioned?
Most modern offices have spaces dedicated for collaborative work, with small huddle spaces dedicated for conferencing and more private work. These collaborative work areas, designed for group interaction and discussion, can often be a source of high levels of noise which can then travel to other parts of the work space and interrupt those doing more private work. Another issue to look at is if you have multi-generational office spaces, those accustom to higher partitions and quieter work spaces may not work as well in a more open space. Without proper noise reduction techniques in these situations, work productivity in your office may suffer.
One way to help mitigate the noise issue is with acoustic panels, baffles, and finish options. There are endless possibilities for applying these acoustic products in your offices spaces. What makes acoustic paneling so successful is their ability to cut down on echoing and ringing by sound absorption. Using either wood or metal frames, they then stretch fabric around it to create an empty space in which sound gets trapped. The placement of the panels is less important than you would think. A feature of these acoustic panels is that, in most cases, no matter where you place them in the space they will absorb sound. Acoustic products also include partition walls, ceiling panels, wall applications, and flooring.
Acoustic Partition Walls come in a variety of finishes and heights from 37”-80”, and are an excellent option for offices that need noise reduction and privacy. They come upholstered in many different colors and can even come with stacked glass inserts to give a more modern feel to the space. Many fabrics also come with a Cal 133 fire rating which is necessary in many commercial spaces. Individuals can also customize panel fabrics with pictures and logos of their choice. This can portray a feeling of home and add a more personal touch to the office space.
Acoustic Ceiling Panels have also changed since your parents and grandparents worked in the office. Yes, there still are 2’x 2’ acoustic ceiling tiles used in spaces because they are very cost efficient, but there are now more esthetically pleasing options. Applications with suspended acoustics are available in different shapes, sizes, and colors. The benefits of these applications are that you can add acoustic ceiling panels anywhere, and they are also a great way to add an artistic focal point to your space. Using these panels also allows you to effectively lower high ceilings, add lighting to spaces that need it, and quiet down notoriously noisy spaces like cafeterias.
When it comes to Acoustic Wall Applications, there are some extremely modern and innovative ways to apply them. I’m sure everyone has seen the acoustic wall panels in the movie theaters, but manufacturers also make smaller applications specifically for offices and other commercial buildings. One of the most interesting of these is a curved floor-to-ceiling wood application which gives dynamic shape to your space along with acoustic absorption. You can also use a protruding acoustic box called a baffle in which people on phone calls can stand underneath to help reduce background noise. They can either be fixed or changeable. Fixed panels are secured to the wall by an installer and the changeable panels are secured using “Z” brackets that can be removed if you decide to move or completely remove the panels.
Another simple way of cutting down on noise is to use carpeted flooring in highly used areas. Carpet is a natural noise reducer not only because of the padding used underneath, but also because the looping in the weave pattern helps to trap the noise.
If carpeting is not an option in your space, you can also use products like rubber flooring or acoustic mats under wood flooring. Rubber flooring is easy to install and comes in a variety of colors. This application, available either tiled or in sheets, is simply glued to the sub-floor. With acoustic mats, you can just lay down strips and nail them to the sub-floor, then apply the wood flooring right on top. This stops the two hard surfaces from touching one another, therefore reducing the noise of walking and other sound vibrations.
“White noise” is another great way to manage noise levels in your office space. Basically you install speakers, or use existing speakers, to play a constant sound in the office. Rather than listening to others work being done, you instead have falling water, birds chirping, or other calming noise that fills the space. This may not reduce noise levels in your space; however it does distract others from unpleasant background noise.
Noise reduction is an issue that many businesses have struggled with over the years. Whether your office is multifunctional or multi-generational, these simple acoustic methods can greatly help reduce the sound levels. With so many different acoustical applications there is sure to be one that is best for your office space, so help bring peace and quiet back to your office! Contact our professionals at Joyce Contract Interiors for more information, or check out some newer applications on our website today.