Designing an office is a complex task because it requires you to take a range of different factors into consideration. The very design of any workspace should not only be visually stimulating, inspiring, comfortable and brand-appropriate, but also needs to incorporate solutions that will eliminate possible distractions. With the aim of achieving this and creating an optimal work environment for employees, designers need to adopt a comprehensive approach to office design, which entails ensuring and enhancing acoustic comfort in the workplace.
Acoustic comfort explained
An acoustically comfortable office is an area where employees can focus on work, interact and exercise confidentiality among each other and with clients. Acoustic comfort is realised through proper acoustic support, implementation of appropriate acoustic and design solutions and elimination of disruptive noise. The basis and criterion for acoustic comfort is a concept known as the Privacy Index (PI). The PI can be simply explained in the following manner: if you understand five out of 100 random words that someone says in the office next to yours, it means that your workplace has the PI of 95. Having achieved the standard PI of at least 80, an office is considered to be acoustically comfortable and suitable for confidentiality and workplace privacy.
An acoustically comfortable office = a productive office
Designing an acoustically comfortable office is essential for the productivity of your employees. If there’s too much noise outside and inside your workplace, your employees will not be able to focus on the task at hand, which will affect their job performance. Office distractions, which include noise, can reduce workplace productivity by 66 per cent. Proper office acoustics, on the other hand, can boost your employees’ efficiency and satisfaction.
Evaluation is the first step
The first step towards designing an acoustically comfortable office is a thorough and comprehensive acoustic evaluation. After an acoustic audit, professionals can suggest appropriate environmental noise control solutions. These solutions can refer to the installation of sound-absorbing construction materials, walls, tiles, partitions, carpeting, etc. They can also entail the introduction of sound masking systems that will mask the noise. By implementing these solutions, you’ll be able to eliminate or mitigate noise sources and improve the acoustics in your office. Your approach to office noise control should be based on a solid, detailed plan that you’ll implement throughout your office.
Employees’ behaviour matters
The behaviour of your employees is an important aspect of acoustic comfort. You need to observe their behaviour and design an office space that will accommodate their work habits. When monitoring employee behaviour, you should determine the balance between interaction and concentration. This will enable you to design an office that provides your employees with both collaborative areas and personal space. Furthermore, your employees’ need for speech privacy is another behavioural factor that should be supported in your office. This means that you need to provide them with “acoustically secure”, confidential zones in the office.
When it comes to employees’ workplace behaviour, you also need to eliminate disruptive habits. Therefore, you should set up rules and protocols that will minimise distractions and maximise workplace productivity.
The open floor plan: a double-edged sword
The open floor plan has become a popular solution for modern offices. It offers a great level of flexibility and numerous opportunities for employee collaboration. However, open office environments have a major disadvantage – acoustic distractions. Employees who work in an open office are exposed to a great number of distractions, which can entail even subtle talk in the back, the sound of typing, etc. Therefore, you should reinvent your open floor design by implementing adjustable wall dividers and providing your employees with personal work areas, collaborative spaces, meeting rooms and lounge areas.
Appropriate design solutions are crucial
Aside from adjusting the open floor plan, you should also implement other flexible design solutions that will enhance acoustic comfort in your office. You should group your employees’ workstations according to their function, placing them in the vicinity of the equipment they frequently use. You should also introduce wall décor because it can absorb the sound instead of bouncing it off throughout your office. Furthermore, you should implement lower dividers and partitions because they are more effective than higher ones. High partitions actually increase noise levels because people are less aware of their speech and conversation volume.
Acoustics may seem like an insignificant factor in office design, but it’s actually crucial for workplace productivity. Therefore, you should implement different solutions that will help you reduce environmental noise and improve the acoustic comfort in your office.