Where open offices tend to hamper workplace productivity by creating noise disruptions, an easy solution is to balance the space with acoustic room dividers. These are an inexpensive, easy-to-use and portable soundproofing solution to separate busy surroundings from quieter environments to provide noise privacy in offices.
The shortcomings of open plan offices
Open plan offices are the workspace trend today. They speak volumes about the collaborative work culture of an office and come with wonderful benefits like better lighting and a more productive environment. But these office-less offices and cubicle-less cubelands also have a dark side.
Studies have revealed that open offices are the most detrimental to employee morale because of the lack of sound privacy. It’s no surprise. Think about that annoying office buzz – whether it’s from noisy coworkers, rumbling air conditioners, loud printers or incessant calls.
Noise distractions have been proven to cause just as much damage as the benefits collaboration has provided to work productivity. After all, everyone does need quiet time to focus and get some real work done, right?
Finding the right balance with acoustic dividers
Doing away with open offices and regressing back to the boxed cubicles isn’t the solution to privacy needs. Instead, what an office needs is a good balance of open spaces and quiet areas with ample noise dampening.
While there are a few other good solutions to the office ‘buzz-kill’, one of our favorites is the use of acoustic dividers. Acoustic room dividers offer a significant amount of sound privacy without having to recreate the office layout or spend tons of resources.
What are acoustic room dividers?
Acoustic room dividers are partition walls that provide the element of soundproofing the space contained within them. The level of soundproofing can range from minimizing noise to 85% sound absorption and it depends on the material used which could range from a variety of solid fibrous materials to even double-glazed glass.
What we find most useful about acoustic room dividers is that they’re light, modular, easy-to-assemble and inexpensive. Plus, they’re thin so they don’t take up much space. Think about how much you can do with that! Set up meeting rooms for discrete conversations, block out the din from pantry hangouts, and create quiet spaces for focused work.
Basically, you can keep your beloved open plan but solve that dreaded issue of sound privacy. Imagine a private bubble that’s free from all the noise and million other things vying for your attention – where you can focus, relax and finally hear your own thoughts again!
What are acoustic partitions made of?
Depending on the type, acoustic partitions could be made of a steel, aluminum or wooden frame with the panels typically made of compressed mineral wool or open-cell foam that absorbs sound waves to provide noise insulation. Glazed acoustic dividers are made of two or more layers of laminated glass which contains a bounded internal layer that can absorb sound.
What are the different types of acoustic room dividers?
Acoustic partitions are available in a wide variety with different materials, designs and working mechanisms to fit a range of noise privacy needs.
These are like regular partitions fixed to the floor, wall or ceiling with panels made of sound-absorbing material. They offer zero flexibility and once installed, they cannot be moved around.
These are sliding partitions that are mounted on rails that allow the divider panels to slide apart or together. The panels are typically made of a steel/aluminum frame which supports the acoustic material. Sliding panels usually make sense in larger spaces and are fixed so they come with limited flexibility.
These are freestanding acoustic partitions made of hinged panels that can be arranged to form an ‘L’, ‘C’ or zigzag line. Folding acoustic dividers offer a lot of flexibility depending on the length and height of each panel and the number of panels used.
Our SoundSorb 360 is a type of folding acoustical partition that comes with a lightweight aluminum frame, 360deg hinges and, most importantly, dual wheel casters! This means you can move it around, make endless arrangements and simply fold the panels together whenever you don’t need it.
Hanging acoustical partitions are sound-absorbing blankets or curtains that can be hung on a rod and rolled up or to the side as and when needed. While they offer better sound dampening, installation typically requires professional assistance and curtains can get thick, heavy and cumbersome to deal with.
These are freestanding acoustic room dividers that are made up of numerous smaller linear panels. This means they can be arranged to form any curved shape and also rolled up for storage.
Our VersiPanel acoustic partition is perfect for creating temporary and flexible spaces within your office. Apart from noise dampening, its washable fabric is also tackable, making it great for displaying artwork, pictures and office memos. Arrange it to any shape you need and when you don’t need it, simply roll it up and stow it away for later!
And you know how we know VersiPanel is the perfect acoustic barrier? It’s because it’s a common favorite in schools. Yes, if something can beat that classroom ruckus, what’s an office buzz in comparison!
Double-glazed glass partitions
If you have a sizeable budget at hand, and have a specific requirement of noise privacy without losing the see-through element, double-glazed glass partitions are your best bet. These can be especially useful in large offices to create quiet work areas without blocking out natural light and openness of the space. But because glass tends to be heavy, glazed partitions aren’t generally moveable or flexible, they’re fixed.
How to choose acoustic room dividers for your office
All privacy needs are not the same. If your office is in the middle of a riotous part of the city, you might need heavy, industrial-grade, complete noise-insulating curtains. For sound absorption without blocking light, go for glazed acoustic partitions.
For regular open-plan office needs, noise-dampening of up to 60-65% suffices comfortably in converting a boisterous workspace into a more calm and organized one. Most office acoustic partitions with an NRC (noise reduction coefficient) of 0.6 are good for such purposes.
There’s no debating here – budget can be the biggest factor constraining your decision about which acoustic partition to opt for. With money to splurge, go all out and install ‘touch and divide’ systems with automated curtains and triple and quadruple-glazed glass with variable noise reduction options.
But like most of us with tight budgets, thankfully, there are a number of options that can provide a decent amount of sound privacy. Modular, DIY partitions are the best for a budget requirement, especially when you also add the flexibility and reusability features.
Flexibility and portability
For fixed office layouts, fixed or hanging partitions offer cheap solutions. However, if you need a meeting room up and running within minutes or your workspace layout changes every month, folding or rollable partitions might be a better investment.
Size and aesthetics
Your choice of acoustic partitions can be immensely affected by the size of space you need to divide. In modular partitions, consider the width and height of the individual panels to decide on the number of panels required.
Apart from the practical aspects, do consider colors and prints to suit your office décor. There are many partitions available in modern styles and colors; use them to make a statement about your workplace culture. Tackable panels are also a great way to add customization – perhaps even as a bulletin board to encourage expression and creativity?
There’s a lot going into making workplaces more efficient and productive these days and out of all the million distractions to fight, noise is the worst. Where open floor plans solved a number of issues of the olden ways and brought collaboration into the work culture, acoustic room dividers are here to support that dream without compromising on privacy and work efficiency.