Office Acoustics: the power of quiet

Staff needs for quiet and privacy are often overlooked in the workplace, and are especially lacking in large-open plan spaces.  As strong believers in co-working and collaboration, we love the way this office style is becoming increasingly popular… for all the right reasons!  Overlooking the need for undistracted focus, however, is not an option.

Too much noise or interaction can quickly become overwhelming; negatively impacting creativity, well-being, and productivity.

Research shows that any small distraction can cost between 23-25 minutes to get back into the flow of the task at hand.  Interruptions abound in the workplace, on average every 11 minutes in an open-plan space.

Here’s our top tips to conquer unnecessary distractions, control acoustics, and better your working environment:

High back furniture

High-back furniture can be used to divide an open-plan space and form huddles.  Seen in this photo, the upholstered back to a bench stops the office chatter and noises from disturbing a focused team meeting.  We’ve also seen the concept applied to standalone chairs with high backs and sides – the ultimate zone for privacy and concentration.

Bonus points if they’re transportable, or can be configured to different requirements!


We’ve heard an awful lot on the biophilic benefits (e.g. purifying the air, enhancing employee well-being) of plants at work.  Let’s hear it for their acoustic properties!  While little recognised for this, plant parts are actually excellent at absorbing and reflecting sound: in particular those with woody stems or dense leaves.

You can create a stunning divider from a planted barrier trough, incorporate them into shelving, or – as now seems the latest – suspend them from the ceiling!

Baffle panels

Becoming increasingly recognised as an effective acoustic solution, baffle panels take many shapes and forms.  We’ve seen them receded into industrial ceilings, as an eye-catching reception feature in wood, or subtly integrated throughout the office.  We especially like the offices of Rabobank, with their considerate recycling focus…  Synthetic felt wall coverings and the sound-reducing baffles were both created from plastic drink containers!

Designate zones

‘Libraries’ in the office are becoming increasingly common, and their silence is as appealing as the educational material on the shelves.  Likewise, separate focus booths as shown in the above image, are a refreshing invitation to concentrate in a busy workplace.  Areas such as these are often overlooked, sacrificing staff engagement in the name of noisy, collaborative working.

Rugs and soft furnishings

Many materials are excellent sound absorbers, with the latest trends in resimercial, and hospitality inspired offices paving the way…  Rugs and soft furnishings are on the increase, as office styles become more relaxed and break away from traditional desking.  Choose upholstered sofas, cushions and pouffes in breakout areas, and rugs and carpets to zones different spaces.

Fabric upholstered screen-dividers are also becoming a popular choice, often doubling up as pinboards!

You can now choose from a range of purpose-created acoustic foams and fabrics to absorb sound in interiors. This is especially important to consider with interiors that have hard floors, and brick or concrete walls as sound can easily ‘bounce’ and increase in noise and distraction to the team.  Photo credit


Need professional advise on creating a sound-smart space? 

Drop us a line on our contact page, and we’ll be right back in touch.



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