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3 Ways to Reduce Workspace Noise: Acoustics ABCs

Absorb, block, and cover are the ABCs of acoustical engineering for office acoustics.  

July 20, 2021

Whether it's a corporate, co-working, or an internet cafe work area, open space workplaces can be very noisy. Open workspaces have gained popularity over the years, and for good reason. Open workspaces come with many benefits, promoting a collaborative environment and creativity while providing opportunities to move freely around a space. But with all of that moving around and collaborating means lots of noise, and without a properly outfitted workspace, noise can lead to lowered efficiency and frustration among workers. 

Luckily there are ways to curtail the noise that open workspaces bring.

Absorb – Block – Cover

Absorb, block, and cover are the ABCs of acoustical engineering for office acoustics.  

Absorb

The excessive noise in an enclosure can generate problems that will affect a company's objectives. The acoustics and functionality of a space are directly linked. 

The purpose of absorption is to reduce noise according to the needs and nature of the enclosure. In a collaborative office, the sound level should be light and adequate so as not to interrupt the people working around you.

When a sound wave is introduced into a space that has an absorption mechanism (like ceiling tiles, or insulated walls, or carpet), and it hits the surface, little by little it loses its energy and is absorbed by the mechanism, the rest of the energy is what you wind up hearing.

If an open workspace does not have absorption materials, the resonance of the sound will be much more significant and can even generate an annoying echo. All walls have a possibility of absorption; however, the materials with which you build will influence the amount of sound that enters the place.

Plants and certain furniture choices can also act as noise absorbers in large work areas.  

Block

Sound blocking is the process of managing noise by avoiding sounds. Designated quiet areas can accomplish this. Blocking sound in select locations and separating noise-generating activities from quieter ones helps manage noise and implement a level of privacy in an open office. 

Breaking up workspaces is a great way to block noise. Using partitions between each workspace or breaking up a large room into three areas instead of one can significantly help reduce unwanted noise. Separate these areas with a meeting room, fabric panels, carpet expanse, partitions, bookshelves, or plants. 

Wear headphones. While wearing headphones at the office isn't always ideal or appropriate, a pair of large headphones can sometimes serve as an obvious indicator that you'd prefer not to be disturbed. Large, over-the-ear headphones often help block out unwanted noise better than earbuds. This is again particularly useful for open offices in which shutting a door to block out interruptions is impossible.

Cover

A proven noise reduction strategy in open office space involves fighting noise with noise. Seems counterintuitive, but ambient noise played in the background at a consistent level is proven to help mask unwanted sounds. 

The process of covering up the noise to reduce the overall sound being emitted in a space is called sound masking. Sound masking emits an ambient sound similar to airflow, a precisely engineered blend of frequencies that reduces the intelligibility of human speech and masks room noises. Unlike white noise, which works via amplification, sound masking creates a pleasant, uniform, low-frequency sound at a consistent volume and level so that the "hum" of the masking system blends unnoticeably into the background.

By gently raising the ambient noise in the room, sound masking makes other sounds seem less noticeable, boosting speech privacy.

Sound masking technology emits a low shushing noise called pink noise. The sound is then manipulated and tailored to match the needs of each room it's being used in, camouflaging speech and making distracting noises less apparent.

If you're ready to create a private and productive work environment, we're here to help. BLM Technologies is a trusted technology provider that will help you get your customized sound masking solutions. Learn more about how we can help reduce workspace noise by contacting us!

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