One of the major arguments going against open plan workspaces is the amount of noise that people are subjected to when working from there. This doesn’t go to say that cubicles or partitions are any better, as they tend to let noise in quite easily.
A recent white paper by Baker Stuart provided some sound advice as to how workspace operators can potentially reduce the noise levels in their spaces without having to sacrifice much of their openness.
The white paper begins with a statement that we are all too familiar with: workspace noise hampers productivity; but it can also hinder collaboration. “As Gensler, the design firm, concluded from a survey of over 9,000 workers- when open plan sacrifices focus for collaborations, both suffer. When people are constantly distracted from their work, they can become deeply frustrated, making them less likely to collaborate and socialise with their co-workers.”
If this is the case, then modern workspace operators are short from fulfilling their mission to drive collaboration and innovation. So, how can flexible workspace operators enhance their design to reduce noise without compromising their openness?
Baker Stuart proposes the following design solutions:
Informal Meeting Areas
These can be located in various corners around a workspace and they serve as small and casual meeting rooms. It is important for these informal meeting areas to be distanced from workstations and desks in order for them to be effective.
Their purpose is to serve as an alternate in which members can host meetings with clients or alternatively with one another in a way that won’t distract or ‘get in the way of’ other members. If necessary, these areas can also have some privacy by including curtains of movable partitions that allow members to choose between an open informal meeting space or a private one.
Designated space where members and coworkers can ‘blow some off steam’. They’re characterized by having bean bags, comfortable couches, ping-pong tables, and the like. These spaces are where members can bond and forget about work for a little and focus on getting to know one another or give themselves a ‘break’.
Having breakout rooms in your workspace will contribute to less noise by encouraging members to go to these areas when they feel like they need to talk, take a break, or relax for a little. Proving a space like this is one way to make sure that members still collaborate and get to know one another without disrupting other members’ work time.
Think of these as the quiet zones in libraries. Phone and music free areas that will drive concentration and productivity. As in a library, these spaces can also be open planned and with shared desks, as long as your community is respectful of the norms.
Placing ‘no talk’, ‘do not disturb’, and ‘phones not allowed’ signs can potentially help these spaces be more successful in their purpose.
We all need to take a call at some point during the day. Phone booths are a great noise reduction solution for flexible workspaces, particularly open plan ones like coworking. Phone booths provide the privacy and flexibility that members need in order to speak over the phone or have an online meeting.
These are 4 design solutions that Baker Stuart proposes, yet, like they mention in their white paper: “noise should be an ever more considered factor in both office design and office culture.” Keeping noise levels down also means that your members have to collaborate in keeping with the norms and workspace etiquette that your community manager proposes and nurtures.
Image via Kontor