Cubicles in an office environment may seem to provide privacy for the workers, but in reality, they provide only an illusion of privacy. While workers aren't able to see what's going on in the cubicle next door, they can usually hear everything going on all around them. Noise disturbances can be distracting and disrupt the work flow. Simple fixes can mitigate at least some of the noise in a cubicle office and allow for better focus on the work at hand.
Raise the levels of the cubicle walls if possible to better block sound. Add soundproof padding to walls, or cover them with corkboards to absorb sound. Install doors on the cubicles if possible.
Cover your ceiling with acoustical tiles to soak up excess sound and to prevent any sound bleed-through from the office overhead. Cover non-cubicle walls with sound-absorbing acoustic tile where possible. Add insulation to walls. Install acoustical curtains hanging from the ceiling or special room dividers mounted on the floor in strategic places to deflect sound in the noisiest areas.
Install an office white noise machine to blur the sound of conversations. If you need to increase phone conversation privacy, consider a sound-masking system that will disguise workers' voices as they talk. With these systems, you will still hear the sounds of voices, but individual words will be indistinguishable.
Upgrade your phones so workers can listen to phone conversations more easily and so they don't need to talk so loudly. Provide workers with high-quality headsets and microphones. Ask workers not to use their speakerphones and not to take conference calls inside their cubicles. Let workers use their own headphones or earbuds to listen to music while working.
Replace your current cubicle system with one specially designed to attenuate sound, if it's within your budget to do so. Rearrange the layout of your office's cubicles so sound doesn't travel through cubicle openings. Try to place all the noisy cubicles together and all the quiet ones together.
Pad or carpet all wood, tile and stone floors to prevent footsteps from echoing. If you are re-carpeting or adding panels, check the noise reduction coefficient for your new products. Give workers rubber pads to place under their desk chairs, and keep the chairs well-oiled to prevent squeaking.
Train your workers in good cubicle etiquette. Ask them not to stand and talk over the cubicle walls. Ask them not to listen to music in their cubicles unless they are using headphones or earbuds. Ask them to mute their cell phones while in the office.
Replace hard angular furniture with soft, cushioned furniture wherever possible, so as to soak up noise. Add plants throughout the cubicles.
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