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Acoustics in open-plan offices

Open-plan offices are common in business and are meant to encourage knowledge sharing and increase productivity. However, if an open plan office is poorly designed, the office acoustics can lead to distractions, interruptions and a loss of productivity and work efficiency.



Some of the most significant benefits of open-plan offices are that they space-and cost-effective, raise morale, and improve communication. However, open-plan offices must be designed to minimise distractions.


Through years of research and experience, standards for office acoustics are built on four parameters that affect acoustic comfort in open-plan offices. These include:

1. Sound strength

2. Sound propagation

3. Speech clarity

4. Reverberation


When a company like Acoustech Consulting is called on to assess or design open-plan offices, the aim is to add acoustic absorption products to the ceilings, walls and furniture as well as include acoustic barriers. For example, it's been shown that screens between 1.5 m and 1.8 m high are crucial to breaking up speech and avoiding annoying interruptions from office acoustics. However, it’s also vital that screens and partitions shouldn’t impede visibility or limit lighting.


Common open plan office distractions include phone calls (professional and personal), team discussions or meetings, coughing and sneezing, espresso makers, music, etc. While it’s not possible to eliminate some of these noises, there are a few steps that can be taken, like encouraging meetings in a dedicated meeting room and eating in a lunch area to minimise the noise of scraping cutlery and crinkling packaging.


One of the most critical spaces within open-plan offices is a quiet room where staff can get away from the office acoustics, take phone calls, or have impromptu discussions with a colleague.


You can take other steps to make an open plan office more productive by moving noisy items like coffee machines, printers, etc., in separate acoustically treated rooms.


Contact Acoustech Consulting today


Acoustech Consulting is an independent consulting firm that offers a wide range of services, including analysing office acoustics and designing open plan office solutions that contribute to productivity and creativity. If you would like to learn more about our services, get in touch with our expert team today.

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