Optimizing Open Plan Office Acoustics – Promoting Acoustic Comfort In Your Workspace

Office Privacy Panels


Collaboration and communication are vital to an organization’s success, but somewhere along way the open plan office trend forfeited focus and sacrificed solitude. With lower horizons and wireless technology, open, light offices foster better team interaction, healthier environments, and more flexible workspaces. Yet, open plan configuration can also perpetuate more sound and distractions and less privacy. The research is loud and clear and confirms that organizations need to begin listening to employee concerns about sound privacy and begin promoting acoustic comfort in the workplace to ensure optimal productivity and performance.

Planning that starts early in the building process is also cost-effective because mistakes in the acoustical environment can be much more expensive to fix after an office is up and running. Not to mention what poor sound design can cost you when it comes to employee productivity and performance.

To help your staff be as productive as possible, two techniques can be implemented during interior planning and design to deal with sound waves as they travel on their diffracting, reflecting, and direct paths between sources and receivers.

SOUND BLOCKING: For Direct Paths + Shorter Distances

SOUND ABSORPTION: For Reflecting + Direct Paths

Sound can be transmitted, absorbed and masked, and you need all three working together to manage the sound in a space properly. Office acoustics solutions for sound blocking and absorption outlined below are sure to be a sound decision for any office space.


1.) Privacy Panels + Office Dividers

Low office partitions will achieve the desired access to natural light and view while allowing workers to be aware of nearby team members. Office partitions in front of the worker when seated at the desk should have a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) of .07 so that speech is not reflected back. Whenever possible, the open plan office layout should locate the desks so that workers will not be speaking directly at each other.

Office dividers can also be used between interactive areas without necessarily defining different rooms. An example is a separation between noisy open work areas and break areas or busy corridors. Mixing zoning strategies with acoustic treatment products, like FilzFelt hanging panels designed to interrupt sound paths, can be used for sound absorption rather than as a barrier. FilzFelt delivers German-milled 100% Wool Design Felt and felt products that include acoustic products, drapery, floor coverings, hanging panels and wall panels plus provides full custom fabrication services. Their acoustic panel collection combines minimalist style with 100-percent sound absorption and can double as moveable partitions, projection, and tack surfaces. Additionally, the panels offer pops of color and texture that can enliven spaces.


2.) Ceilings

In open spaces, the main function of the ceiling is to absorb sound that would normally bounce off the ceiling into a nearby space or cubicle. When selecting ceilings, the use of the same acoustical ceiling throughout the entire space is not always the best choice. That’s because in terms of speech privacy, there is a significant difference in the acoustical requirements of ceilings used in closed spaces and those used in open spaces. As a result, different areas require different ceilings. Specify ceilings having a minimum NRC of 0.9 in open plan office areas and NRC 0.8 in meeting rooms and training facilities.

DIRTT micro-perforated tiles can also be installed in ceilings providing acoustic control and a design alternative to the traditional white overhead grid.


3.) Office Privacy Pods

Quiet focus-inducing capsules and cozy collaboration spaces are by far the most important elements in promoting acoustic comfort in your workspace.

The open plan office we’ve grown to love has delivered many benefits, however workers have recognized the need for privacy within their workspace. Allermuir has a number of solutions that challenge traditional partition methods to create areas for concentration and collaboration, offering flexibility as well as design and acoustic benefits. Haven Privacy Pods by Allermuir provide a defined space for individual focused work and spaces for informal team meetings. The space-efficient geometric design also enhances the acoustic performance of the product.

Acoustic planning strategies incorporate spatial factors and technologies into an overall approach to achieve acoustic comfort and to support the various styles of work at your office. Whether it’s style, comfort, or productivity that drives your organization, CIS is here to help you optimize every square foot of your space for the people that use it most. Contact us today or browse our  Privacy Furniture collection in our online office furniture catalog to learn more.