Taming Poor Acoustics In Open Plan Offices

Open plan office acoustics are criminally misunderstood. Up to three-quarters of office workers now work in open plan offices. When designed correctly, open plan working spaces can encourage teamwork and effective communication. However, this is often not the case and one of the biggest problems that can arise from working in open plan offices is the issue of excessive noise.

When lots of people work in a shared space, it’s very common for communication and productivity to be hindered due to noise distractions. Open plan offices, with little to no partitioning, combined with the sleek, hard and highly noise reverberant surfaces common in open spaces, means noise levels can be particularly high and disruptive in open-plan offices.

In 2021, new standards were introduced in regards to the acoustic treatment of open plan office spaces in the UK outlining guidelines for achieving optimal working conditions.

Ceiling Treatment

The ceiling is the most important surface to treat in open plan office environments, given the fact it is usually the largest area. Coverage of at least 50-60% of the ceiling with products featuring a high weighted absorption coefficient allows for adequate treatment to the ceiling spaces. In certain cases, more may be required. Our dedicated acoustic surveyors will analyse the space and recommend the best solution possible. Generally we would recommend Class A absorbers such as Ecophon Solo, or SilentSpace Rafts

Wall Treatment

In proportion, wall surfaces in open plan offices are low in area compared to ceilings. However, use of wall treatment can help with isolation excess sound in different areas of the office. Especially in corners of the open plan space, where sound can ping off multiple walls creating fluttering echo through the office. This is where wall treatments can be particularly important. Depending on the ceiling treatments, Class A or Class B absorption would be recommended. Achievable with almost any acoustic wall product (additional absorption may be required). Our favourites included Autex Groove, FabricWall and Timber Acoustic panels.

Floor Treatment

Limited options available for floor treatment, and its contribution to the general absorption in the space is often very limited. Even just carpet can help prevent excess reverberation, or acoustic underlayers can be considered.

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Communication

The whole point of open plan offices is for ease of communication. Acoustic treatment ensures there isn't too much noise bouncing around the space, allowing workers to hear and understand each other.

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Privacy

Communication is important in offices, but so is privacy, especially when discreet conversations need to take place. Our sound masking systems ensure workers can have private meetings without being overheard.

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Productivity

Excessive noise in an office is directly linked to lowered productivity and morale. Acoustics are an important consideration for office designers if employers want a productive workforce

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The Importance Of Open Plan Office Acoustics

 

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