How to Manage Privacy in an Open Office Workplace

When it comes down to it, there are many great acoustical and visual solutions to combat the privacy issues that are faced within the open office workplace. In facing these issues, one must realize that the open office workplace is about balance. There must be a balance between one’s individual needs and the need for collaboration. Privacy is essential when it comes down to the need to decompress and recharge. It has been noted that productivity loss doubles in an open office workplace compared to private offices, but with acoustical and visual privacy solutions productivity can quickly be regained.

Some of the most unique and appealing privacy features can be found in utilizing sound insulation through acoustical design solutions. As mentioned in VC Insights earlier this month, demountable walls and sound clouds are two acoustic features that provide privacy. When dealing with reverberation and echo in an open office space acoustic materials on the ceiling such as baffles, and multi-surface applications such as wall panels work great. Baffles provide both sound absorption and spatial definition and come in a variety of colors and textures. Straight baffles perpendicular to the ceiling optimize sound absorption most efficiently.

*An example of ceiling baffling in a large meeting space 

Wall mounted panels, hung horizontally, help to control sound levels and define open plan spaces. Wall panels are also great as a visual privacy solution. Like baffles, wall panels come in a variety of colors and textures as well.

*A wall panel study done to help absorb sound in a game room 

You can also try lowering the partitions around your work space to create more privacy, both visually and acoustically. How does that work? Psychology. Lower partitions and even glass partitions instinctively prompt people to keep their voices down. When you have higher partitions or panels, you are equating visual privacy with false acoustic privacy.

* An example of low glass partitions in the open office 

Most importantly is the fact that the higher the STC rating of a material, the more reluctant it will be to keeping things quiet. So, what is an STC rating? STC stands for (sound transmission class,) and is the measurement of a barrier/material’s ability to stop sound from passing through it. For example, a material with an STC of 42 will prevent 42 decibels of sound from passing through. When referencing acoustical privacy solutions specifically, a relevant rating would be NRC, which stands for noise reduction coefficient. NRC measures the degree to which a surface or material absorbs sound. Acoustical solutions convert sound energy into mechanical energy; as the sound waves come in contact with the material, it responds by vibrating the fibers in the material. Make sure to keep these things in mind the next time you are looking into some acoustic privacy solutions for your work space!

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