Acoustics in Open Plan Workplaces

There has been a rise in open-plan workspaces once again and many people are wondering if this is such a beneficial idea. One of the main concerns with this open office concept is the poor acoustic experience such a design can provide. Open office concepts present unique challenges in controlling disruptive noise. While people need quiet for focus and work, they also need to come together and collaborate.

The best way to encounter and overcome this issue is with planned acoustics. Integrating acoustics in the planning stage is essential to the overall effect. Sometimes this aspect of office planning is sidelined and the results can be troublesome.

Here are some of the reasons that planned acoustics should be integrated into the planning stages. You may be interested in taking a look at class 2 sound level meter.


One of the greatest arguments against open-plan workplaces is that productivity can be hampered. There are just too many environmental distractions, including chairs moving, phone and video conferences, face-to-face conversations, and the list go on. Many work environments have adopted an Activity Based working plan, meaning people are not likely to be working at the same place, their activities will be moving about at different areas of the office to accomplish their tasks.

Acoustics play a key role in this process as activities that are going to cause more noise can be completed in one area of operations while the other areas are kept silent. This plan can be enhanced with the introduction of sound-absorbing materials in walls, flooring, and doors.


Even though the open work plan was designed to introduce a more open work culture, there will still be the need for confidentiality and security for certain meetings and discussions. Acoustics are very important when considering office space plans and meeting rooms so that privacy and confidentiality can be maintained at all times.


In addition to the regular work that arises from work, noise and interruptions can and another level of stress to many workers. This can contribute to increased absenteeism and poor productivity.

Acoustics are as important educational learning spaces as they are in occupational workplaces, according to Dr Terry Byers from Melbourne University. In a recent article he published in Architecture & Design, he argues against the large open space classrooms plan and refers to a correlation between the performance of the classrooms and the learning outcomes for teachers and students.

The sound affects us on a cognitive, behavioural, physiological, and psychological level. The consequences of poor acoustics in learning environments can interfere with the performance of educators and learners alike.


After determining the goals of planned acoustics as they apply to your location, you will have a better idea of what type of acoustic ratings to look for in your doors, windows, and partitions. In larger venues with multiple rooms and areas which could be in use simultaneously, the acoustics are far more complex and require greater care and attention to detail to plan effectively.

All of these factors will have an impact on the professional performance of your team by adjusting the way sound travels throughout the various areas of operations. The same concepts described here apply the same in learning environments and work environments. Therefore, it is important that up-to-date and experienced acoustics information be applied to designing workspaces.