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HOK WorkPlace Team Outlines Design Strategies to Improve Acoustics in Open-Plan Offices

HOK’s Lisa Brinkman, Deborah Sperry and Micki Washington have authored an article describing strategies facility managers can use to improve acoustics and provide the optimum level of sound in an open workplace.

Excerpted from FM Link:

Most new offices across the world include some degree of open-plan design. One of the main complaints we hear from people in these spaces is that they are constantly distracted by unwanted noise around them. Prolonged noise distractions caused by poorly designed office acoustics can drag down productivity and, along with it, employee morale.

Balancing the diverse settings that provide varying noise levels will enable employees to find their right “productivity zone.” Facility managers should work with their designers and acoustic consultant (often a valuable team member and worthwhile expense for a project) to plan spaces with low-level ambient sound as well as zones that allow for different levels of sound. Active entry zones can host high-energy collaborations; mid zones are for meetings, information sharing and learning; and quiet zones are spaces with walls where people can focus.

Integrating acoustics into your workplace strategy is an important part of creating a productive environment. This can be as simple as separating front-facing employees from focus areas or giving your people the flexibility to move to a space that suits the type of work they are doing at that moment: heads-down or collaborative.

This approach is advancing with the evolution of a new generation of open offices that include activity-based workplaces (ABWs) and neighborhood-based choice environments (NCEs). These strategies offer employees a plethora of options about how and where they work. Mobile technologies, phone/quiet rooms, huddle rooms and more enable people to get away from the noise as needed—or to spare coworkers by taking their noise to other areas. If more advanced office models like ABWs and NCEs are not carefully planned, though, occupants will still experience noise fatigue.

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