The Quieter Office Space | Commercial Office Design Minneapolis

The Quieter Office Space

Noise levels are one of the biggest sources of workplace complaints. Prolonged exposure to even relatively low levels of office noise leads to elevated stress levels and hampers productivity. Here are seven changes you can make to create a quieter office space.


Structural changes to offices will have the biggest impact on noise concentrations because they impact the entire space rather than having a localized effect on just one corner of the office.

1) Ceilings

Replacing regular ceiling tiles with acoustical ceiling tiles will help to reduce noise levels. To meet the WELL Building Standard, reverberation in an open office cannot exceed 0.5 seconds. Acoustical ceiling tiles are specifically designed to absorb more ambient sound and reduce reverberation in a space, helping to bring noise levels in line with WELL Building requirements.

2) Floors

Replacing hard flooring with carpet will have a significant impact on office noise levels. For the ultimate choice in noise reduction, consider cushion-backed carpet tiles. Cushion-backed modular carpet absorbs 50% more noise than hard-backed tiles, which in turn absorb three times more noise than hard flooring.

3) Dividers

Sound travels further in open offices with no walls to block noise from conversations, moving chairs, and foot traffic. One way to counter this is to install dividers and provide workers with their own cubicles. While this will be effective at blocking more sound, clients will lose the collaborative benefits of having an open office space. It will also block light as well as sound, creating a less pleasant working environment.


Managing the flow of people and changing how various areas are used can make a substantial difference to office noise levels.

4) Zone Your Space

In an open office, it is crucial to make a distinction between your heads-down workspace, breakout areas, and communal areas such as kitchen and dining facilities. If you have clearly defined breakout areas for informal meetings and collaborative work, and kitchen spaces for eating and conversation, your heads-down workspace will become quieter because casual conversations will be taking place elsewhere.

5) Build In Closed Spaces 

While an open office is perfect for encouraging collaboration, the addition of private, closed rooms will make a noticeable improvement in noise levels throughout the space. Closed-off spaces give employees areas for meetings and private phone calls, removing this additional noise from the main workspace.


In addition to larger structural and layout enhancements, there are smaller changes available, such as particular furniture and equipment, which can also help to reduce ambient noise.

6) Include More Soft Furnishings

Soft surfaces absorb more sound than hard surfaces, reducing reverberation and lowering ambient noise levels – just like switching hard flooring to modular carpet. Consider this simple approach for many furnishings: selecting upholstered desk chairs rather than benching, and curtains or fabric blinds rather than wooden or plastic blinds. You may also want sofas or even beanbag seating in your breakout area, which offers more opportunities to bring soft furnishings into the office.

Soft Funishings can also add to the aesthetic of a space. With INTHEGROOVE music studios we had custom upholstered wall panels manufactured and installed. The result was a tremendous acoustic benefit while adding another a little more character and drama to the space.

INTHEGROOVEMUSIC The Studio. Commercial Interior Design PureAlchemy Design.

7) Experiment With Sound Masking

Certain sounds are more distracting than others, and in open offices, overheard speech is the biggest problem. Some organizations have taken an approach known as sound masking in which ambient noise, such as white noise or the sound of rainfall is utilized to cover up more disruptive sounds.

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