How to handle noise

As offices grow in size and number of people, more people are going to be disturbed by noise and talk from coworkers. The solution of making smaller offices and having less people in the offices is not always the desired path.

To reduce the nuisances of noise in the open office space, there are a number of things you can do, ranging from behavioural changes to looking at the workflow or making changes to the physical surroundings of the office.

Guide to handling noise

Here are some ideas to get you started on handling noise in the office. The recommendations are not correlated to a specific noise level, but can be used in any office environment, in which you wish to reduce the nuisances of noise:

Guide to Setting up the workspace

Here are some furnishing ideas that can help minimize noise in the open office space.

  • Using carpets or area rugs and plants as part of the decor
  • Using cabinets and/or partitioners
  • Using furniture that is easy to move
  • Using paintings or bulletin boards on bare walls
  • Using sound absorbents, particularly in rooms with high ceilings and/or exposed tubes
  • Providing other places to work and talk, depending on the task
  • Removing noisy equipment such as copiers from the office space
  • Making sure that people who work together sit next to each other, preferably with partitioners or cabinets arround each team

office-space-furnished

When it comes to reducing office noise levels, one concern is the noise stemming from conversations, and this is where the Noise Guide excels.

Office noise_Noise Guide in office

The German IT services and consulting company, T-Systems, decided to introduce open plan offices, and as part of this process introduced several initiatives to help prevent the nuisances of office noise in the new open plan offices.

A main initiative, and one that they would recommend to other companies with open plan offices, was to install Noise Guides in the offices. Employees use the Noise Guides as a visual reminder to keep down their own and workmates’ noise levels. Regine Weller says:

“We would definitely recommend the Noise Guide for all open plan offices. They are an important tool to achieving self-control in regards to noise.”

Regine Weller further explains that the Noise Guides help employees become aware of their own noise levels, and when colleagues in the team cause the sensor on the Noise Guide to turn red, they simply make a kind remark to keep down their voices.

The new open plan offices at T-Systems were introduced at a time when issues about office noise was already well-known and heavily debated. So T-Systems did what they could to reduce any such issues beforehand. Some of the initiatives included setting up partitions in the offices to prevent the noise from travelling too far. They also decided to put up sound absorbent pictures on the walls to help reduce office noise, and carefully considered the location of different employees and teams in the offices.

These were practical solutions to help lower the general noise levels in the offices through physical planning of the office environment, but they needed a device to help them lower noise from people. The Noise Guides complement these initiatives by serving as a constant reminder for each employee and each team to keep down their own voices. The Noise Guides help employees regulate their own and workmates’ behavior, thereby causing the noise levels for the entire office to lower.

More about Office Noise

You may also be interested in:

Article about reducing noise in offices:
Stop Noise from Ruining Your Open Office

Research paper about the effects of noise on office workers:
Noise in the Office Workplace