25 Ways To Reduce Noise In The Workplace

25 Ways To Reduce Noise In The Workplace

Noisy offices are the worst. Many studies show that too much noise can significantly reduce productivity and morale. One study by Cornell University claims “noise is the most frequent complaint among office workers” and the side effects of working with too much noise in an office is decreased productivity, increased illness, stress, fatigue and lower job satisfaction. In conclusion, too much noise can frustrate employees and negatively influence their morale. 

By making some simple changes and additions to your office, you can reduce the amount of noise made in your office. Here are some noisy office solutions you can use and over twenty different ways to reduce noise in the workplace.

What’s great about this list is, we’ve gathered quite a few different free ways to reduce noise in the office so you don’t have to make lots of major purchases. See which options are best for you and your company.

Scroll down to read more about them.


  1. Use Noise Cancelling Headphones
  2. Use White Noise Machines
  3. Use Absorbing Acoustic Wall Panels
  4. Use Acoustic Ceiling Panels
  5. Insulate The Walls
  6. Soundproof Windows
  7. Soundproof doors
  8. Sit Teams Together
  9. Encourage People To Use Meeting Rooms For Meetings
  10. Take Telephone Calls Out The Work Zone
  11. Have A Separate Lunch Room
  12. Reorganise Workspaces
  13. Carpet Floors
  14. Cover Noisy Air Ducts
  15. Turn Off Noisy Machines When Not In Use
  16. Use Plants To Reduce Noise
  17. Speak To Chatterboxes Politely
  18. Use Desk Screens
  19. Use Floor Screens
  20. Use Bookcases As Wall Partitions
  21. Provide Quiet Zones
  22. Detour Walking Traffic
  23. Keep Reception Away From The Main Work Zone
  24. Use Background Noise To Cover Disruptive Noises
  25. Replace Noisy Furniture

 1. Use Noise Cancelling Headphones

Noise cancelling headphones are excellent for drowning out the sound. Passengers commonly use them on planes to block the aeroplane noise and they are becoming popular in open offices too. Employees can put on the headphones and switch on the white noise setting to drown out and dampen sound, which is ideal for people sat next to people who regularly use the phone or exterior traffic noise.

2. Use White Noise Machines

If several employees are struggling with background noise, then white noise machines can help diminish surrounding sounds. They are available with different features; some can dampen vibrations (ideal for music rooms) and others can help reduce overall noise. 

3. Use Absorbing Acoustic Wall Panels

Acoustic wall panels are designed to complement your office design and reduce sound passing through the walls and disrupting other workers. The panels hang on the wall, usually made from foam, and the thick material dampens the sound waves. Rooms like meeting rooms and brainstorming areas can significantly benefit from having panels in place to stop sound waves travelling as far. Acoustic wall panels are commonly seen in offices, lecture halls, classrooms and recording studios.

4. Or, Use Acoustic Ceiling Panels

When looking for ways to reduce noise in the workplace that does not negatively affect your current office design, acoustic ceiling panels are an excellent noisy office solution. They work exactly like wall panels, except they are on the ceiling so they’re more discreet and don’t affect the current style of your office. 

5. Insulate The Walls

This option is more costly. However, if your employees are disrupted by noise outside, especially in the city, or a loud office next door, this might be the best option. Hiring an office refurbishment team to insulate your walls with insulation will significantly reduce the amount of noise that leaves and enters your workspace. 

6. Soundproof Windows

Soundproofing your windows can make a huge difference where noise is concerned. Hotels in urban cities use soundproof windows to reduce noise so their guests can have an undisturbed sleep. Having windows that are soundproof can reduce sounds made by passing traffic, pedestrians and aeroplane noise. 

If your office currently has single glazing then it’s definitely time for an upgrade, single glazing will struggle to contain noise and is not very energy efficient.

7. Soundproof Doors

Just like your windows, you can soundproof your doors too. Door drop seals help to seal the gap beneath the door to stop sound escaping and disturbing other people. They are easy to install and barely noticeable.

8. Sit Teams Together

By sitting teams together, people can talk to each other easily and not have to talk over other colleagues who are busy working. Reorganising your office space so your teams are sat and working together will benefit collaboration and productivity too. 

After you’ve moved people to sit with their teams, you can identify noise areas in your office. Which people talk a lot? Which teams produce the most noise? Is anyone struggling with the noise? Once you’ve identified any problems, you can find suitable ways to reduce noise in the workplace.

9. Encourage People To Use Meeting Rooms For Meetings

Team meetings can create a lot of noise, especially as people discuss ideas and chat. It’s important managers and team leaders host their meetings in meeting rooms, away from the main working areas so no other employees are disrupted.

10. Take Telephone Calls Out The Work Zone

Employees who have to use the phone regularly, like salespeople and managers, should refrain using the phone next to other working employees. A separate work space should be set up so people can use the phone away from everyone else. Ideally, this should be a soundproofed room. If you don’t have the space, you can partition an area with floor screens. 

11. Have A Separate Lunch Room

It’s unhealthy for employees to eat lunch at their desk and, for noise reasons, it’s best to have a separate lunch/break room for staff to use. People who sit together for lunch can eat and talk in privacy without disrupting other people who are still at their desks. Breakout areas with comfortable furnishings and dedicated for employees on a break can be a powerful boost to morale.

12. Reorganise Workspaces

Along with sitting your teams together, you can also reorganise your workspaces. One of the best ways to reduce noise in the workplace is by identifying the major sources of disruptive sound. Are there some individual employees who cause a lot of noise? Is there noisy machinery? Is the office next door creating too much sound? 

Once you’ve identified the problem noises you can reorganise your workspaces so employees won’t be distracted by noise. For example, if the office next door is very loud, you can move your desks to the other side of the office, utilise sound proofing panels on the wall next to the other office and move cabinets and storage furniture against it to give extra insulation against the sound.

13. Carpet Floors

Wooden or hard floors create a lot of sound. You can dampen loud footsteps by using carpet instead. If you don’t like the idea of using carpet everywhere, how about using carpet on busy foot traffic areas, like corridors and towards printers.

14. Cover Noisy Air Ducts

Any air ducts that carry a lot of noise can be covered. Speak to your landlord first to see if you’re allowed to cover it. If it cannot be fully blocked off, you can still use plants or put other furniture in front of it (bookcases, cabinets, etc) to stop the noise from travelling throughout the entire office.

 15. Turn Off Noisy Machines When Not In Use

Noisy printers, screen projectors, air conditioning units should be turned off fully when not in use. Even in standby they can create frustrating sounds that can distract. Turning them off completely also benefits your energy bills and the environment.  

16. Use Plants To Reduce Noise

Plants are commonly used to help reduce noise. When driving your car, you often see hedges on the side of busy roads and tall trees beside motorways. These are purposefully placed to reduce the traffic noise from travelling and affecting homeowners nearby. In an office, plants can be used to deflect noise too. Tall plants in front of noisy air ducts and plants in loud areas can dampen sounds. Don’t forget plants offer benefits to morale too by bringing some of the outdoors into the office. 

17. Speak To Chatterboxes Politely

While it may feel awkward, speaking to people who cause a lot of noise can significantly reduce noise in the workplace. Most of the time, these people do not know they are causing disruptions in the office. You don’t need to tell them they are causing too much noise; explain that people are struggling with noise in the office and you’re trying to create a calmer environment, you want employees to use the breakout room for louder discussions instead.

18. Desk Screens

Desk screens offer people more privacy when they are working and they can be useful for containing and blocking noise. Especially when an employee has to use the phone, desk screens can dampen the sound waves.

19. Floor Screens

Similar to desk screens, floor screens can be used to partition separate work areas for people to work and use the phone. For open offices without private offices, these are ideal. The floor screens help to dampen sound waves so if people are having a meeting in the partitioned work area, they won’t be disturbing other employees.

20.  Use Bookcases As Wall Partitions

If you don’t like the idea of floor screens, then tall bookcases could be used to partition new and separate work areas. Bookcases can be used for filing and the durable structure will absorb travelling sounds.

21. Provide Quiet Zones

If you notice any employees struggling with noise levels, then create some quiet zones for people to work. It can be difficult to completely eradicate noise in an open office so it’s easier to create separate areas where employees work in silence. Too much noise can frustrate employees, decrease morale and lower job satisfaction. Providing quiet work areas gives people more choice of where they work.

22. Detour Walking Traffic

Offices where people regularly walk through to reach another office (or location) can be a problem for people who are working. If your office is regularly used as a shortcut, then you need to detour the traffic and ask people to use another route instead so your staff are not distracting by passing foot traffic.

23. Keep Reception Away From The Main Work Zone

Reception areas tend to be busy with phone calls and visitors, making them very noisy work areas. Move reception desks away from the main working area so people are not distracted by incoming calls.

24. Use Background Noise To Cover Disruptive Noises

You have to be careful with this one. Switching on a radio to help cover problem noises can cause even more problems. Background instrumental music can be an effective cover; you just need to find the right volume so it benefits your noise issues but doesn’t irritate people.  

25. Replace Noisy Furniture

Squeaky chairs. Noisy desk drawers. Wobbly table legs. Although these sounds are minor, they are distracting and can add to your noise pollution. Noisy office furniture is a strong indicator that it is time to find replacements, after all, your office chairs shouldn’t squeak. 

At Elm Workspace, we have furnished educational and office workspaces, see all the furniture we offer.  

Want To Find Out More About Noise And How It Impacts Productivity?

Too much noise in an office can seriously reduce employee morale and productivity. By managing noise effectively and making efforts to improving happiness overall at work you can make everyone more productive in your office.

Get your free downloadable guide on how to manage noise and improve productivity

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