If you’re working in a big office, then you know that focusing with people chattering all the time is almost impossible. Your co-workers may be great people, but they can create so much noise, that it makes doing your job in time a fantastic feat.
Well, if it’s a consolation, you’re not the only one with this problem. Offices with cubicles are famous for being one of the worst working space organizations, and do you know why? Because of the overwhelming noise pollution.
However, no matter how awful cubicles are, and how distracting the noise is, we all have to deal with it. Large businesses nowadays work like that, and until someone comes up with a better plan that’s as cheap as this one, cubicles aren’t going anywhere.
Still, that doesn’t mean that you and your productivity have to suffer. There are several solutions you can implement to soundproof your office cubicle and cancel or at least reduce the noise pollution. You can use some of our soundproofing tips and create a noise-free workspace for yourself.
Some of these you can do on your own, and install them on your cubicle alone, but for some, you might need permission from your boss. On the other hand, if you own the business, you can use these tips and tricks to create the perfect working environment for your employees.
Soundproof Your Cubicle – 15 Ideas on How to Reduce Office Noise
1. Add (Softer) Furnishings
A lot of noise in offices nowadays comes from the fact that sound is echoing back and bouncing off of hard work surfaces. A simple way to reduce noise all around the office is to fill out the space with (soft) furnishings wherever that’s possible.
Think potted plants, cushions, or drapes. Every little detail that you add can help reduce the sound pollution in your office. Additionally, if you are not afraid of your boss, ask him/her if you can rearrange the office furniture, or maybe re-negotiate a new cabinet or some bookshelves to place where the noise is produced. All these tweaks will make sure the sound will have more surfaces to bounce off, meaning, it will die out quickly.
Here is another “good” idea – keep your desk messy with lots of stuff laying around. Take all the heavy files and stack them against the cubicle wall.
2. Put a Thick Fabric on Cubicle Walls
Super simple, and yet, wonderfully effective, this solution is ideal for low to middle noise environments. Buy a thick fabric you like and drape it over every wall of the cubicle (or at least the one that is most problematic). The fabric will absorb sound, so less noise will get to reach you while you’re working.
An excellent material that can do the job is heavy moving blankets for soundproofing (more info). They are generally used to wrap up furniture to protect it from damage while moving homes. However, thanks to their heavy composition, they can also stop the sound from passing through their fibers. Of course, soundproof blankets won’t cancel all the noise but are really cheap and definitely worth a try.
3. Block any Nooks and Crannies
Sound is tricky, so any cracks, gaps, and corners can let it in. Luckily, there is a simple solution – acoustic caulk (read full guide). You can apply it to the joints of your cubicle walls or seal the cracks that have developed over time.
Another more practical way is to use small pieces of paper or foam and stuff them into the gaps. Foam is perfect for that job, as you can push it into a gap, and it will subsequently expand to fill it.
If there’s space at the bottom of cubicle walls, put strips of foam there as well.
4. Lay Down Some Carpets
Another thing that can cancel out a lot of the office hubbub, and let you concentrate more on your job and less on gossip and drama, is a simple carpet.
When there’s hard flooring in an office space, the sound echoes back off of it. High heels sound like a god of thunder is walking through the office. But, if you have carpets covering those floors, the noise will reduce dramatically, and you will all be able to do a lot more.
Remember, the thicker and denser the fabric, and the more area it covers, the better. So, throw rugs are fine, but they only cover a small space. Instead, lay a larger carpet that will provide more coverage.
5. Attach Acoustic Panels
This cubicle soundproofing trick requires a small investment on your part, but don’t worry; it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. One thing you will have to do if you’re just doing your cubicle is asking your boss for approval. Once you get the permission, it’s smooth sailing.
Soundproof foam panels (more info) are easy to find, they are the same kind that’s in use in most music recording studios, and you can buy an entire pack online on Amazon and have it delivered to your office.
Once they arrive, cover as much of your cubicle space as you can. These panels will reduce the echo that bounces inside of your cubicle and absorb outside noise. That doesn’t mean you’ll get to work in complete silence, but it will help significantly.
6. Soften the Floor with Mats
You can use a rubber floor mat in combination with carpets. It is a simple trick – all you need to do is place the mat under the carpet.
Just as with carpets, you must look for mats that are thick and dense, because they will absorb sound much better. Also, if you can manage to cover the floors throughout the office space, it will quiet down the entire place significantly.
All in all, they are a cost-effective option, and if nothing else, they will make the floor softer and more comfortable to walk on.
7. Raise the Cubicle Walls’ Height
One of the most effective ways to soundproof the office space is to extend the cubicle walls. You can either raise the existing ones, or you can simply buy new walls.
Take a look at these tall tall freestanding office partition walls (see on Amazon) that are really simple to put up, very well build, and make a significant difference. The best thing about them is that they are not hollow as many other similar products. In fact, they have a honeycomb pattern – that is well known for it acoustic abilities – shaped inside the solid-wood panels.
On the other hand, there two significant downsides. Firstly, these acoustic partitions cost a lot of money – too much to finance them by yourself. And secondly, you can’t just some day bring them to the office; you will probably need permission to do that.
8. Hang Soundproof Curtains Over the Cubicle Walls
If you’re in a low to middle noise working environment, this quick fix should work perfectly.
Hang soundproof curtains (more info) from the ceiling, and let them overlap the cubicle walls. Get a thick material for this, and you should be able to block out most of the noise coming from the outside of your working space. If your colleagues like the idea, even better. If they all do it, you’ll all be working in an amazingly silent space.
9. Get a White Noise Machine
Believe it or not, sound conditioners can provide significant help with noise masking. Usually, people buy them to help them fall asleep, but they work just as well in office cubicles. A constant noise will help you concentrate better, and block out the outside noise.
White noise machines emit a neutral audio sound, creating a sound background that blurs out the conversations of your co-workers. You will still hear some of the noise, but it won’t be as distracting with a white noise machine. Some of the very best ones are available on Amazon. These are a great solution, as they are almost zero effort – you don’t have to install anything, and you don’t have to bother your colleagues.
10. Or a White Noise Fan
White noise machines are an obvious source of white noise. However, you could also use other sound masking machines for your office.
An excellent example are so-called white noise fans. They will not only keep your working space nicely cool but, thanks to constant humming, also cancel out other, more annoying noises. Apart from their dual-purpose advantage, they are also pretty cheap (compared to white noise machines). You can read more about white noise fans in the link.
11. Install Hanging Acoustic Panels
If you are a business owner, and you own the office your business is in, this can be a great investment that will raise productivity.
These panels are made to suppress office reverberation. They will instantly reduce the sound pollution in the office, and eliminate the excess noise. Most businesses use these as an alternative to office dividers, and you can suspend them vertically.
Although effective, these are also rather pricey, so if you’re on a budget, some of the previous ideas might work better for you.
12. Acoustic Tiles on the Ceiling
Walls and floors can be soundproofed easily, and this will make a difference. However, to complete the process, you should soundproof the ceiling above the working space as well. That will stop the sound from bouncing off of the ceiling.
These Acoustic Tiles (see on Amazon) will absorb sound from below, and prevent the sound from above from coming through. They are available in many different colors, so you can certainly find one that will fit your office décor.
13. Rearrange the Layout of the Office
Some strategizing can get you a long way. Just take the loud cubicles, organize them into a block, and take the quieter teams and put them in a cubicle block that is as far from the loud ones as possible. That way you’ll reduce the noise for those who are bothered by it, and leave it the same for those who don’t mind it.
14. Educate the People You Work With
If you’re all equally bothered by the noise, then some collective effort might help reduce it. Noise from people talking can be the biggest problem in every office. Also, it can be the toughest issue to prevent.
So, make a plan with the management team. Let them send a directive throughout the company with some office space etiquette rules. There’s no need to make it sound harsh, but it can be an incentive to start changing office behavior.
Advise people to have their smartphones set to mute, not to take conference calls in their cubicles, and not to use speakerphones during phone calls.
15. Change the Office Phone Systems
One of the most common complaints in big offices is that the noise from co-workers on the phone is too distracting.
That means that a simple upgrade in the phone system might have a positive impact on everyone’s productivity.
Switch to headsets with microphones, and you’ll notice that their conversations are a lot quieter.
So, Should You Soundproof the Cubicle?
It’s your call. If you try to soundproof your cubicle, this will reduce sound pollution in your entire office space. You won’t be able to hear your co-workers as much, and vice versa.
This might have another positive result – people might speak more silently when they don’t feel like they have to be louder than the background noise. Not to mention that your colleagues might like it, and start doing this in their cubicles.
Just one thing before you leave – if you are the business owner, soundproofing is a great idea that can increase overall productivity in your company. On the other hand, if you’re not in charge, make sure to ask your superior for permission to install soundproofing material.