Posted on 03 Dec 08
Does your office area get noisy? Are people talking over cubicles? Do phone conversations disturb other employees? Try to have as few "hard" surfaces as possible. Sound is absorbed by soft surfaces and bounces off hard surfaces.
These are all-too-common problems for many agencies. I was recently at an agency that had this problem and was seeking solutions. I remembered a visit to UPAC’s headquarters in the Kansas City area following a massive renovation of their space. In an office where everyone, including the president, has a cubicle, I was amazed at the quiet atmosphere. So I contacted UPAC president Kurt Huffman and asked if he could help this agency quiet things down.
Here is Kurt’s reply and I think you’ll find some of his suggestions very interesting and very workable:
Lots of things can be done, and most are simply common sense.
Face people perpendicular or opposite (backs to each other) instead of "into" each other with the common cubicle designs.
Sound masking "machines" - basically canisters that hang from the ceiling and emit white noise like a fan.
Sprayed the ceiling with sound absorption material.
Have vertical soft baffles hanging from the ceiling.
Have music studio acoustical tiles on walls and in the corners.
Have large water feature that creates falling water noise.
LOWER the barriers between desks which creates a psychological effect of each person now knowing someone is there and so each person talks less loud. Before when we had 6' high cubicle walls people FELT like they were isolated so they talked loud. Now they can see that talking loud disturbs others so they don't.
Got good headsets so people on the phone do not need to talk loudly to be heard by callers.
Separate the common areas where people convene for lunch, training, meetings, breaks, interaction from the individual work areas so most discussions are held away from where people are doing individual work.
There still is noise, but it's like a restaurant where you "hear" people talking but you don't really make out what any one person is saying.
By the way, most were our ideas. Architects, engineers, designers, sound people, etc., contributed very little. Professionals seem to be people who get paid to do things over and over the same way. Stretching their comfort zone is really difficult. They get in a rut. It's best to get people who are not experts and ask them what they would do because they are not limited by the "usual" solutions. Remember, the jet engine was not invented by the piston engine experts!
Hope this helps. Kurt.