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How to reduce noise in an open plan office

Love them, or loathe them, open plan offices are very much a way of our working lives now. While they are praised for opening up lines of communication, encouraging collaboration and assisting in enforcing company values and culture, they have also received heavy criticism for the noisy working environment that is created.

With research by The University of Canada suggesting that the average employee is distracted every 3 minutes – with it taking around 23 minutes to return to their train of thought, it’s time to take a look at your workspace and see what simple changes can be made in order to cut down all that noise.

Acoustics are key

Workplace acoustics have evolved a lot in recent years and now present a creative and decorative option for improving the noise around your workspace. It is always recommended that you have an acoustic expert visit your workspace in order to assess the full environment and provide the best recommendations to reduce the noise levels but it also pays to research the ABCs of office acoustics for yourself.  From wall panels to blinds, to light fittings and chairs – here are a few of our favourite pieces.

Sound Absorbing wall tiles

These colourful tiles are not only practical; they will also take any plain wall and transform it into an eye catching focal point in any space. The 3D tiles are great for balancing sounds around the office and because they can be arranged and attached according to your own requirements, they can become a truly unique piece of art for your workspace.


If you are after something a little different and quirky, then the BuzziCube is a must. It’s sound absorbing technology means that it’s a great option for an empty space and removes excess noise and echo.


For acoustic comfort with a twist, the BuzziBlinds are a freestanding space divider made up of five clever rotating blinds. Depending on the level of privacy sought, the blinds can be opened or closed to varying degrees providing a greater level of privacy when needed. Owing to its flexibility, the blinds have become a popular product for an open plan office, credited for giving workers choice and control over the privacy needed which can be implemented within seconds.

Space to focus

In a noisy open plan workspace, it’s essential that workers have spaces that enable them to break away from the hustle and bustle of the office; however, without clear space divisions, it can be difficult. By introducing modular and booth style furniture within an open plan office, private, focused areas can be achieved enabling workers to escape and think clearly without the need to reintroduce walls.

Some of our favourite pieces are…

B-Free by Steelcase

This is a truly flexible furniture solution that forms a neighbourhood within the workplace and provides a destination for workers to escape, focus and enjoy space away from the chaos of the office. The soft seating, desks, tables and screens can be used in a range of combinations and further, more acoustic items can be added around the area to create a truly quiet, private space.

Away from the desk

Away from the desk is perfect for focused and collaborative work between teams. Its high back soft upholstered sides shielded sound and provide privacy, encouraging teams to move away from their desks for collaborative work thus limiting the distractions and noise caused to others.

Provide social and break out spaces

When you’re busy, one of the most frustrating occurrences in the workplace has to be colleagues around you chatting, having lunch, or talking 5 minutes time out to rejuvenate between tasks, especially if your project requires attention to detail or is time sensitive. Remove the tendency for distracting, loud, social conversations to regularly occur by encouraging workers to move to breakout spaces or a workcafé. Socialising and catching up with colleagues is important in order to build and support working relationships, so you don’t want to cut these out of your employee’s day simply because noise is a workspace frustration.

These spaces can also be used for collaborative group work outside of busy lunch time periods, further reducing the need for loud and distracting gatherings to take place in the open plan environment.

If you would like to go a step further, why not integrate technology into the breakout space. This will enable workers to power up and work away from their desk when needed and it will also facilitate collaborative work such as training and presentations.

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