The importance of acoustic comfort in the office

Acoustic comfort can be defined as the extent to which the level of sound or noise in a particular environment is comfortable for the people who are present in a particular space.

It is a complex concept influenced by many factors, including the type of noise, the quality of sound, the design of the space, and the behavior of the people in that space. Ultimately, proper acoustic comfort can be achieved by creating an environment that provides the appropriate balance of sound, noise reduction, and reverberation to meet the needs of the people in a given space.

While companies often invest in comfortable chairs, adequate lighting, and complimentary food or beverages (all of which are great BTW), when it comes to the workspace acoustic comfort is an important aspect that is unfortunately frequently neglected. However, this oversight can result in significant impacts in terms of employee productivity, yielding headaches, frustration, decreased efficiency levels, and overall well-being of employees. 

Why don’t we discuss the importance of acoustic comfort in the office, the challenges of achieving it, and the ways by which it can be improved? If you’re interested in joining the conversation surrounding the importance of acoustic comfort in the office, we’d love for you to keep reading! 

How does noise affect performance at the office? 

Noise can have a significant impact on the performance of employees in the workplace. A study by the University of Nebraska has shown that exposure to high levels of noise can lead to increased stress levels, reduced job satisfaction, and decreased productivity. This is particularly true when it comes to open floor plan offices where noise levels can easily exceed the recommended levels. 

While the immediate effects of noise are evident, there are also more subtle and subconscious impacts that have the potential to affect employees’ productivity.

One of the most obvious effects of noise on work performance is distraction. When employees are exposed to loud or persistent noise, they may find it difficult to concentrate on their tasks, leading to decreased productivity and increased errors. Even low-level noise, such as background chatter or the hum of machinery, can be enough to disrupt people’s ability to focus while reducing their ability to perform tasks that require a high degree of concentration.

In addition to distraction, noise at the office can also lead to increased stress levels. The constant barrage of noise can trigger stress responses in our bodies, leading to increased heart rate, higher blood pressure levels, and the release of stress hormones, like cortisol. Together, these biological factors can make it more difficult for employees to stay focused and productive while simultaneously contributing to physical symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and irritability.

On top of performance issues, exposure to noise can lead to long-term effects on the ear health of employees. This can roll into other significant health-related impacts on people, but even all on its own, hearing damage caused by exposure to high levels of noise is permanent and irreversible. This is yet another potential impact that a lack of proper acoustics in the workplace can have on employees and their ability to communicate effectively or participate in the first place. 

The open floor plan office dilemma 

The open floor plan office has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many companies adopting this design in an effort to foster collaboration, communication, and creativity amongst all employees. However, the open floor plan office has also been criticized for the way it negatively impacts acoustic comfort. The lack of walls and barriers with this type of office design means sound can travel far more easily throughout the space, resulting in a noisy and distracting environment.

In addition to the detrimental impact on acoustic comfort, the open floor plan office can also cause other unfavorable effects for employees, namely reduced privacy, a heightened number of distractions, and a lack of personal space altogether. These factors, among others, can lead to increased stress levels, reduced job satisfaction, and decreased productivity.

In the past, office spaces were very compartmentalized in a way where each and every employee had their own individual room. While this setup allowed for personalized working environments, it hindered collaboration between colleagues. As a result, companies began to recognize and fixate on the benefits of an open floor plan office because it allowed employees to interact and collaborate with one another more readily, even across different departments.

However, the pros were viewed as outweighing the cons, and this shift came with its own set of challenges that many did not expect. With fewer physical barriers, the prevalence of distractions and disruptions skyrocketed. Since it became easier for colleagues to be bothered by the noise and activities of others, concentration abilities were at an all-time low, making it hard for people working in the office to give their full attention to the tasks at hand. 

As such, many companies began to realize that creating a comfortable acoustic environment in their open-plan offices was crucial for maintaining employee productivity and their ability to stay focused. By mitigating sound distractions, companies can promote a positive and productive work environment that encourages collaboration and creativity while simultaneously minimizing potential disruptions.

What can be done to minimize office noise?


One of the most effective ways to minimize office noise is through soundproofing. This involves incorporating specific materials, such as acoustic panels and insulation-focused padding, to absorb sound.

This will inherently reduce the amount of noise that enters or exits the space. Installing soundproofing materials along walls, on the ceilings, or within the flooring can significantly reduce the amount of noise that can be heard within the workplace.

Noise-Canceling Headphones 

Noise-canceling headphones are another option worth pursuing when you’re eager to minimize the level of office noise that you and your employees experience at work. These headphones use active noise-canceling technology to block background noise and create a quieter work environment. This is particularly useful for employees who need to concentrate on complex tasks that require a high degree of focus.

Office Layout 

As discussed, the layout of an office can play a significant role in reducing noise levels. Creating designated quiet spaces for employees who need to concentrate on their work can help reduce overall noise levels in the office. Additionally, carving out areas where employees are able to collaborate and communicate effectively without disturbing others can yield a more productive and harmonious workspace. 


Acoustic comfort is a crucial factor in the creation of a productive and healthy workplace environment. By taking steps to minimize office noise and crafting a workspace that is highly conducive to productivity, employers can ensure that their employees are able to perform at optimal levels while maintaining what matters most, that being their health and safety.

At the end of the day, noise pollution is often overlooked, and consequently, this results in significantly detrimental impacts on the efficiency and effectiveness of everyone in the office. Acoustic comfort is an essential aspect of any workplace design, and there are a variety of solutions available to mitigate sound distractions to establish the ideal work environment.

From acoustic panels and sound masking systems to carefully planned office layouts and more, companies can prioritize certain measures to ensure that their employees have the right tools and resources to succeed. By prioritizing acoustic comfort, companies can promote a culture of focus, collaboration, and innovation that benefits both their employees and their bottom line. 

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Hello! My name is Alayna Doyal. I'm both a writer and an editor. I studied neuroscience and psychology in college, but after changing career paths, I ultimately found my true calling, that being digital marketing and content creation. I love interacting with people, learning about human behavior, and making the world a better place through words.

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