- Low or no partitions,
- Small or shared workspaces,
- Plethora of glass walls, and
- Fewer doors and private offices.
Common complaints about these open office environments are noise distractions, interruptions, and lack of privacy, and specifically speech privacy stemming from the fact that there are fewer walls and partitions to block sound. With so much open space in modern offices, conversations in open areas can be heard by people as far as 100 feet away. Those complaining are not alone. According to a recent survey of over 25,000 workers in over 2000 buildings, lack of speech privacy (i.e. overhearing everyone’s conversations) was far and away the workplace factor open office employees were most dissatisfied with, with nearly 60% of them citing it as a major issue.
That said, open offices aren’t all bad. After all, there has to be some reason why companies keep building them, right?
Facility managers, interior designers, and architects are rarely trying to make offices boring and drab replications of the office from Office Space. The goal is always to make them elegant and functional then space can meet design. The trend away from cubicles and toward common workspaces is partly due to being unsightly, and also because companies are striving to create an environment that facilitates collaboration and transparency.
Additionally, open offices by their very nature give builders a blank canvas that allow them to take risks and develop creative spaces. With cubicles removed and by adding glass walls, architects are able to introduce more natural light making the space seem larger and brighter bringing the office to life. These fun, cool spaces can be used as recruitment tools—who wouldn’t want to work in Google’s new Tel Aviv office that features a slide between floors and a Lego room?
The goal is to design beautiful, modern, collaborative buildings and workspaces that are acoustically comfortable. The most effective solution to keeping these aesthetically pleasing office spaces and make them functional to promote productivity and keep employees happy is to install sound masking in the office space. Sound masking is the addition of an unobtrusive background sound into an environment that covers up excess noise through speakers installed in or above the ceiling.
But where to start? Follow these five easy steps to improve your office space.
- Identify the problem areas. What spaces specifically are most used, loudest, and require attention to improve the work environment for employees and customers? Are there areas where overlapping conversations has become a distraction? Is privacy a concern?
- Mark-up a floorplan. Use a scaled floorplan to highlight the areas that would benefit from sound masking. A “reflected ceiling plan” accurately depicts the ceiling environment and is best for a sound masking installation company to use to design a sound-masking solution.
- Create a budget for the project. Cost can vary, but typically average $1.00–$3.00 per square foot. Consider the cost of losing valuable employees who are disgruntled over their frustration. What is the value of increased production and comfortable work space?
- Get a quote. Give your floorplan to a qualified sound masking installer and they can provide you with a quote for the project.
- Make it happen! Studies have confirmed the real productivity and morale benefits that sound masking provide
With sound masking, companies can adhere to their open-office vision while ensuring the finished product is still an acoustically comfortable place to work. The Connectivity Group installed sound masking in this beautiful office in downtown Boston to create, in their words, “an open office experiment that actually worked.” This global staffing firm is so happy with their sound masking that they are using Connectivity Group’s national installation capabilities to add sound masking to future satellite office renovations. As more offices move to more collaborative and aesthetically pleasing open-office plans, sound masking should continue to be a part of the trend.
Tim Hooper, President
The Connectivity Group, Inc.