How To Reduce Noise In Your OfficeSoundproofing 101
If you’ve ever worked in a busy office environment, you are well aware of the impact a noisy workspace can have on your productivity and overall well being. And with so many of us working, at least partially, from home, we’ve all been caught off guard by noise leaking into our space and interrupting a zoom meeting, or disrupting our work day in some other way.
The good news is that whether noise is a huge problem for you and your team, or you’re just looking to make your space sound better than it already does, there are things you can do that will significantly improve the sound quality of your space, and make your room sound, and FEEL better. Here are our top four:
1. Re-organize team members
Location can make all the difference when it comes to allowing space for sound to enter. When an environment gets noisy, people speak louder, making the environment even noiser, and so on. This becomes an even bigger problem when sensitive or confidential information needs to be shared among employees, or with clients. For example, If the HR office is located next to the sales bullpen, confidential information will have an easier time escaping to the bullpen and getting picked up by the folks in HR, than if their office was located in a more secluded area. Move team members around the office strategically, and consider the sound aspect of these type of decisions moving forward. For those of us working from home, spending some time checking out the sound attributes of our office space before settling on its location is strongly recommended.
Reorganizing team members can make a huge difference in the way a room sounds
2. Locate and seal holes and gaps
Air gaps allow sound to travel through and pollute a space. There are many reasons why your space may have holes, gaps or dents among its walls. They are commonly found where HVAC units were previously installed, or where other hardware was once housed. Regardless of the reason, fixing these gaps is a great way to stop noise leakage and improve the sound quality of your space. This is especially useful in working from home environments, where individuals are often utilizing a corner of an apartment room as an office, having to combat constant noise flowing through from adjacent apartments, noisy streets, or loud neighbors.
3. Check your windows and doors
As anyone working anywhere in New York City can attest, our streets are loud! It’s not only dirt and trash that pollutes our spaces, so does noise. There are several products on the market that can help offer some relief; Door seals are an effective and affordable way to help reduce noise pollution in any room. They are easy to install and seal the air gaps between the frame and the door. Similarly, improving the effectiveness of your windows by adding an interior layer can also help.You can go the DIY route and create the seal yourself (a piece of clear acrylic that attaches to the window frame using a magnet for easy removal should work), or purchase a professional sound reducing window that installs on top of your existing one.
L shaped door seal
4. Turn down the bass!
We know, we love bass too! But at least during working hours, it tends to be a top disrupter! Be it the restaurant downstairs or the karaoke queens next door, bass frequency is the strongest and carries the farthest! That’s why you can sometimes hear the bass from the car stereo across the street, but other sounds, such as vocals and higher frequency instruments are lost. The “bottom” line here is simple: be considerate! If you’re the one playing music, invest in a good equalizer, or simply remove some of the bass via the settings on your audio player. If you’re approaching someone who’s playing the music, ask them to specifically lower the bass. You’ll be surprised what a huge, instant improvement it makes!
Bass frequency is the strongest and carries the farthest
Having soundproofed hundreds of spaces of many types and sizes all over NYC since 2002, we’ve pretty much seen it all. And while the diversity of needs and spaces is exponential, we continue to see people repeat some of the same mistakes, costing them all valuable time and money. They are all easily avoidable.
Here are three things to avoid as you embark on your soundproofing journey:
Don’t believe buzzwords and magic products
Generally speaking, don't believe products advertised as ‘acoustic’. Many products simply don’t work well enough to make any audible difference. According to Liron Peled, CEO of NY Soundproofing “using thin foam doesn’t actually work. While many products advertise as ‘acoustical foam’, thickness is crucial to offer any acoustical value. Foam that is 1” thick or less doesn’t do enough to solve any acoustical issues. And even then, it won’t compare with results actual acoustic panels offer.” We recommend checking the NRC rating of a product before purchasing. A NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) is an average rating of how much sound an acoustic product can absorb. The rankings go from 0 (for worst / total sound reflection) to 1 (for best / total sound absorption). A good product will have a minimum rating of 0.5, ideally closer to 0.8 or more.
Acoustic ceiling and wall panels in an open office environment greatly reduce noise travel
Don’t Watch a 3 minute YouTube video
One of the biggest, and most costly mistakes we see folks make is not doing barely enough research and resorting to quick-fixes that promise a lot but end up not delivering any actual results. Myths are naturally very popular across social media, and tidbits about soundproofing haven’t escaped Tik Tok and Instagram. Let us hereby confirm: Soundproofing paint will not stop the sound from your neighbor's dog barking from leaking into your apartment, and sticking a few pieces of magic foam under your desk will not significantly improve the sound of your zoom calls. The first step to solving your sound issues is for them to be correctly identified, so we always recommend booking a free evaluation first, before committing to any solution.
Don’t think short term
We know noise makes everything more stressful, but as you contemplate your options take a breather and make sure you are taking into consideration any long term commitments and consequences you need to be aware of, as you go about implementing solutions. How long are you planning on staying in your current office? Are you willing to invest more in sound treatment since you’ll be occupying a space for a longer period of time, or is this a temporary location that requires a more immediate and less invasive solution? Do you need to get anyone to sign off on any space alteration, and if so how soon do you need to start this process? The better prepared you are for your soundproofing consultation, the more informative and effective it will be.