In a world of trendy open plan offices, office acoustics are becoming more important if speech privacy is to be maintained and the overall sound is functional for office staff.  Sound effects how we think, feel and operate. Noise complaints are also common across work spaces!  In the work environment, sound complaints are made up of; not being able to hear properly, distraction, and speech privacy.


Factors to Take into Consideration with Office Acoustics


Hearing and Understanding are Two Different Things

As mentioned earlier, sound privacy is often a concern in the office.    Muffled sounds from the surrounding office are not usually a problem. These muffled sounds don’t make sense to us and so we’ll usually switch off from them. Sound however which you can understand perfectly, poses a privacy issue.  When we talk about sound privacy, we can apply it to meeting rooms, conference rooms and other group working areas.


Stop the direct path of sound                                                                                                                          

One way sound travels is on a direct path from source to receiver.  It’s important to remember that desk spaces facing each other will be on the same line of direct sound. Therefore, some sort of barrier such as a partition must be placed in the way of the direct path to help direct the sound elsewhere.


Designate areas for different tasks

Office design should look at making ‘quiet’ spaces for tasks that require concentration and generally no sound or at least where it’s minimised significantly.


How does Sound Work?


Sound is a form of energy which like all energy, can’t be destroyed but it can be directed, transformed, blocked or absorbed.  It’s created when something vibrates (resonates) and the medium around it vibrates sending out longitudinal waves which we hear as sound waves.


Three Paths of Sound

  • Direct path - between source and receiver
  • Reflected path -  sound bounces off surfaces
  • Defracted path - sound bends over tops and around sides


Having a clear understanding of how these sound paths work, will help you to address office acoustics efficiently.


Office Design Tips for Sensible and Sound Office Acoustics


Acoustic Panels

 Acoustic panels are made from sound absorbing material and nowadays can be made into wall art to not only improve the office acoustics but compliment the office decor.   Acoustic panels will help with background noise and can be implemented into collaborative areas.


Choose softer furnishings

Hard surfaces cause sound to bounce, this is known as reverberation therefore softer materials help to absorb sound.  Curtains and thick carpets can help to absorb sound rather than reflect it.


Hanging Acoustical baffles

Hanging acoustical baffles are attached to the ceiling to prevent echoes and, reverberation.


Concentration booths

Traditional office layouts are seeing a decline and more collaborative spaces are on the incline. Whilst open plan is a great collaborative space, if we’re taking into consideration acoustics, concentration booths are a perfect solution for more private meetings. Concentration booths use sound absorbing technologies to mask and muffle sound.


To summarise

  • Don’t situate desks directly opposite one another;
  • Design an office which allows for flexibility to cope with noisy and quiet tasks;
  • Understand the different paths of sound;
  • Choose specially designed acoustic furniture and use where appropriate.


Find all of our designer acoustic furniture here.