Silence is golden, according to an ancient proverb. And that maxim is true when it comes to the office. More than half (65%) of creative professionals need a quiet environment to do their best work, according to a survey of 10,000 office workers. In fact, workers say quiet is the most important element they need to excel.
Unfortunately, many office workers don’t get the quiet they need. In another survey of 10,000 office workers across 14 countries, 85% had trouble concentrating in their work environments. While 95% of employees said it was important for them to work in private, only 41% could do so.
The majority (70%) of modern offices have an open layout, an arrangement that certainly has its benefits—from an increased opportunity for collaboration to a boost in creativity. But open offices can eventually take a toll on employees, too. Constant noise can make people feel overstimulated, tired, and unproductive. Plus, open offices aren’t even great for collaboration. When two offices transitioned to an open layout in a study, workers spent 70% less time interacting face to face. Researchers think open architecture may trigger a natural reaction for people to withdraw from their colleagues.
Bottom line? You may be able to boost your employees’ creativity, collaboration, and productivity by giving them access to quiet workspaces. And you don’t have to do a complete remodel. Keep reading to discover innovative ways to incorporate small, quiet workspaces into your existing office on any budget.
Quiet Workspaces for Small Budgets
Your employees may crave peace and quiet even more than they want a ping-pong table or a gym membership. But you don’t need to provide everyone with a private office or go back to the days of cubicles to help your employees succeed.
In the mobile age, most employees don’t need a static workspace. You can offer your employees dynamic locations to do their work, including open-layout rooms, conference rooms, and smaller quiet workspaces, and they can move around as needed.
You don’t need to spend a lot to create quiet areas. Here are some ways to create small private workspaces on any budget.
- Existing furniture
You have bookcases, cubbies, or whiteboards in your office already. Push them together in creative ways to create private nooks.
- High-backed furniture
Use high-backed couches or booths to define private spaces.
Invest in soundproof curtains. They’re inexpensive, and you can pull them open or closed to switch between group and private spaces.
- Acoustic office screens
These affordable partitions create private spaces and help block noise. You can pair rolling tables and chairs with acoustic screens to make private mobile stations.
- Acoustic phone booth hoods
These devices are made out of noise-blocking materials. They hang on the wall, and they’re big enough for workers to duck their heads inside while they talk on the phone. Manufacturers originally designed them to allow people to answer the phone in refineries, factories, and other loud industrial environments. They’re also an effective solution to help employees in open offices have private phone conversations. Depending on the size of your office, you may want to provide several.
- Noise-blocking devices
White-noise machines, noise-canceling headphones, and earplugs are inexpensive ways to help workers focus in a noisy office environment.
Quiet Workspaces for Larger Budgets
If you have a bigger budget to create quiet workspaces for your employees, consider installing prefabricated pods to help your employees find privacy and quiet. You can choose from a variety of options. Some are open on one side, but many are soundproof and enclosed. They’re well-ventilated so your employees won’t overheat while they work. They’re also modular, meaning you can move them around as needed. And as an added plus, most options are sleek and stylish and complement modern office designs.
- Soundproof work pods
These tiny rooms have space for a small desk. They offer workers in open offices a place to make phone calls, do video chats, and work without distractions. They run from about $3,500 to more than $15,000. Many manufacturers include glass walls or a skylight to provide natural lighting.
- Phone booths
Just when we thought the phone booth was gone forever, it’s back. These prefabricated rooms provide employees with a soundproof place to make private calls. Some only offer enough space to stand while others provide enough room for a desk and chair. They range in price from about $3,500 to $8,000.
- Meeting pods
These privacy pods are larger than the other options, and they provide space for a table and chairs for two to six people. They start around $9,000 and go up from there. Your employees will appreciate having places to collaborate in private and hold small meetings. And you’ll free up your conference room for larger meetings.
How to Reduce Overall Office Noise
Even if you provide your workers with quiet workspaces, you may want to take measures to quiet down your general office environment to help employees focus. Have you noticed that offices tend to create echoes? That’s because they usually have wood or tile floors and contain a lot of hard furniture, such as wood tables and metal desks. Sound waves bounce around these hard surfaces.
Add soft materials to your office design to help disrupt the path of sound waves. Carpets, rugs, tapestries, wall hangings, canvas art, acoustic wall panels, acoustic ceiling panels, and upholstered furniture help reduce racket in an office. These materials absorb noise, convert its energy to heat, and create a quieter overall environment.
Plants also help reduce noise and echoes. For the most impactful sound reduction, include several arrangements of plants in large containers. (Soil and plant dressings absorb sound, too.) Place the plants around the outside of the room. When sound waves bounce off the walls, the leaves will absorb them. You may also want to hire a garden designer to build portable living wall screens. They absorb sound and create privacy wherever you need it. And as a bonus, plants also improve indoor air quality and boost morale.
In addition to soft materials and plants, consider investing in a sound-masking system. It may sound counter-intuitive but adding nondescript background sound to a space can make it seem quieter. White noise, which combines all the different frequencies of sound, makes it harder to understand human speech. Thus, coworkers’ phone calls and conversation aren’t as distracting. Nature sounds, such as a babbling brook or ocean waves, may work even better than nondescript white noise because they help people feel relaxed and focused.
While creativity and collaboration are integral to your business, the noise level in your office may cost your company more than you think. Most workers lose about 86 minutes per day due to distractions, according to one of the large surveys cited above. Don’t make your employees retreat to a closet or blast music on their headphones to keep out noise. Instead, invest in quieter spaces within your office for your employees. Chances are, you’ll boost your company’s productivity and morale.