Six Ideas for Reducing Noise and Increasing Privacy

Daniel Walsh

03 Mar 2021

Steelcase Showroom Image

From top-secret briefings, to somewhere to take sensitive calls, many modern offices are lacking in spaces fit for private – or just quiet – work. The good news: there are lots of quick fixes you can put in place right now.

Add a booth

If you’ve got some extra space in the office, it’s worth considering small ‘phone booths’ that can be used for important calls, sensitive video briefings or other private conversations with people off-site. They hardly take up any room: as long as power and networking points are nearby, they’re easy to get up-and-running.

Make a (white) noise

When conversations from across the office are making it hard to concentrate, consider trying out a sound masking system.

This isn’t science-fiction or whimsical new-age nonsense – it’s a popular technology used in many offices. Sound masking works by playing an almost unnoticeable noise in the background.

The effect: phone calls and face-to-face conversations carry on as before – but your colleagues will find it easier to concentrate… and conversations over 4.5 metres away become either impossible to hear or much less intrusive.

Think outside the office

If you have an office restaurant, bistro or coffee area, you could add a small number of semi-enclosed booths – think of the seating you’d find in an American diner, but with tall dividing panels or walls separating each one.

These can be great for informal briefings and meetings that need some privacy – but not locked doors, drawn blinds, and blood-curdling non-disclosure agreements for all in attendance

Lumentum Hunts Office Marek Sikora Photography Large 13

Privacy booths are a great addition to any workplace. This image is taken from Lumentum in Towcester, a recently completed project of ours.

‘I’m on a call’ signs

These don’t need to be po-faced. Have some fun with your company tone of voice, and create branded signs for team members to place on their desks when they’re on a sensitive call… or just need to get their heads down for an important project.

Get the right privacy panels

We all know the standard privacy panels – they typically run along the long side of the desk, helping to damp-down noise and generally give team members a sense of personal space. However, they’re not really designed to keep conversations – or anything else – 100% private.

It can be worth looking at tall privacy screening for people – or desks – that need it. There are lots of options, from corner screens that wrap around the edge of a single desk, to large dividers that create a distinct working area.

Promote personalisation

Plants. Pictures. Books. It doesn’t take much to make a working area feel a bit more welcoming. The key thing is to set out a few guidelines to make sure the overall look and feel is in line with your brand – so it’s a big ‘yes’ to Raj’s cacti collection, but a definite ‘no’ to Ellen’s piranha aquarium.

It’s also good to promote personal interests outside of the regular working areas. Maybe you could provide a bit of space for lunchtime yoga classes? Or arrange for outside experts to come in and turn the canteen into an impromptu lecture space once a month.

Plants office

Plants are a great way to add life and colour to an office.

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