Working from an office cubicle can be quite challenging due to noise pollution. If you have or are working in one, you would surely agree this is one of the worst working environments to be in. However, the situation is mendable. You can soundproof your office cubicle by heightening your cubicle, buying some soundproof wall fabric, or altering its structure to minimize the noise. Read through to get in-depth detail of how you can do this.
I am from Sweden, and the workspace in Sweden is a little bit different from the rest of the world. The few privileges like the senior management occupying separate office cubicles do not happen around here.
All departments are in one big open space with office cubicles. Yes, even the bosses. Trust me, you will not recognize them.
As a result, my biggest challenge was receiving a phone call. Sometimes I had to hide under the desk to receive an important call. Yeah, it was that annoying.
I decided to come up with a few tricks you could also employ to soundproof your office cubicle and make it a little bit more private and work-friendly.
So I checked in with the management to make a few changes and after getting consent from my boss, I can tell you this; it worked perfectly!
I even looked forward to going to work. Here are some of the few tips to soundproof your office cubicle:
Simple hacks to soundproof your office cubicle
Soundproofing is generally something that many people avoid because they think that it is too hard or too expensive. In fact, it doesn’t have to be that way. All you should have are just the right resources and the right knowledge. Here I have listed some simple hacks that could help you out to easily soundproof your office cubicle:
Increase cubical height
Adding extensions to your cubicle dividers might just seal the deal. Keep in mind the higher the dividers, the better noise insulation you get in your office cubicle. Although, if you are unable to extend the current set-up, a better option would be to have some room partition dividers. Who knows, you might even complement the office décor.
Now you can either buy the room partitions here on Amazon or you can make it your little DIY office project if you are one to stick within budget. Like I do. As you choose your office dividers, make a point of selecting acoustic room dividers which absorb 85% of sound passing through them.
If you decide to go with the DIY project, check out this video for further assistance.
Of course, if room partitions are over your office budget and DIY looks like a lot of work, you can always go with the extensions.
Have the right furniture in your office cubicle
If you own office space with hard and angular furniture, chances are the echo in your office cubicle will be a major disruption. I know replacing your office furniture can be quite expensive but in case you have plans to increase your office furniture, make sure you get the right ones this time.
Furniture like high backed couches, lounge chairs, and enclosed booths is just the change you need to decrease sound bouncing from the walls, ceiling, or the floor, giving you some peace in your cubicle.
Apply softer furnishings around your office cubicle
Use softer furnishings as they can be very effective in absorbing echoes around your office space. Filling out space around your cubicle with softer work surfaces such as cushions and non-metallic objects will much likely save the day.
You can also have potted plants, though they can only absorb noise at minimal amounts. Here are the best sound-absorbing plants:
The Peace Lily’s leaves are glossy and wide enough that is able to absorb sound waves adequately. It is an unusual ability to blossom in medium light. Its white flower changes to pale green in 10 days then remain this way for a month. It is an indoor plant so you should definitely place it away from direct sunlight and cold temperatures. It is best to have it by the window if one is lucky to have it besides.
- Rubber Plants
The rubber plants are also very wide & thick emerald green leaves that absorb the noise. These are also sensitive to sunlight like Peace Lily, but they do thrive in a bright environment. It’s placement in well-draining & air-potting soil is important.
In a reasonably sized pot, they can easily grow to be around three feet in height and two feet in width. They have the ability to provide plenty of indoor acoustic shelter and are particularly popular as a typical office plant due to the fact that they have low maintenance.
- Weeping Fig
This plant has broad and pointy leaves that are usually patterned. The weeping fig has arching branches that subdue the sound efficiently. It is easy to grow and also remarkably good at purifying the air due to its leaves that are dense and large.
Various pollutants can also be purified by the weeping fig-like xylene, toluene, and formaldehyde. It is better to place it in a shaded, sunny spot; they have glossy leaves that are likely to fall on the ground, so it is best if you don’t move them around.
Keep in mind that these plants are easy to grow and have large leaves to subdue the sounds efficiently and as a bonus check, they will also purify the air around your office cubicle.
Methods to soundproof your office cubicle floor
Did you know that hard floors like ceramic tiles and hardwood floors will cause echoes all round your office cubicle?
Such floors can even amplify small sounds creating a distraction, hence the need to install sound-absorbing flooring material.
Even so, doing this to your office cubicle only will not be effective as the noise comes from around your cubicle and not within it. So this should be added all over your office floor plan but of course with consent from the management.
Now you’d want to be careful at this to avoid ending up with great floors, yet sacrificing durability.
Here are some exceptional options to make your floor quieter:
Lay a carpet
This is certainly the easiest way you can soundproof your office cubicle floor. It will not only reduce echoes but also reduce the noise coming from the ladies’ heels and give your office a personal touch as well. As you’re shopping for some carpets or rugs, remember the thicker the pad, the better the insulation.
Also, thicker pads are more durable compared to the thin ones. I feel the need to advise you against getting the office desk chair mats because this would only work for your cubicle but if the idea is to get each office cubicle a desk mat, well, one large carpet would be more economical.
You can find some affordable office carpets here on Amazon in different sizes, colors, and texture.
Use foam-backed vinyl flooring
Well, as you might be thinking, this is not just a regular vinyl flooring material. It is a foam-backed quality that has an underlayment with a cushioned, flexible surface good for sound reduction. It also has thermal properties as it keeps the floor warmer in cold months.
Top-quality vinyl will provide a nearly soundless surface that has a cork and rubber to absorb footstep noise. Over time, vinyl flooring material has been commercialized to fit any kind of cover that you’d want to see on your floor, from wood, tiles, to stone planks. In addition, if beauty is what you want for your office cubicle floor, you will definitely get it.
Before installing vinyl underlayment there are a variety of factors you need to consider:
- The type of subfloor – you can install vinyl over a concrete subfloor, plywood, or an existing floor.
- Type of vinyl – thinner vinyl has less material to cushion your step hence poor soundproofing results. A thicker vinyl will cushion your step underfoot.
- Your budget
- Thermal ratings – consider looking into an underlayment with a thermal R-value if you are in the colder months. This is just a bonus.
While installing the underlayment, follow the guide below:
Make ready the tools and supplies needed, know the dos and don’ts of the installation process as well as acquiring the manufacturer’s guide. Your supply list should contain:
- Foam underlayment
- Screwdriver, nails, and screws
- Tape measure
- Sticky tape
Remove the existing floor
You should first remove the floor currently covering your office cubicle.
Before installation, sweep, or vacuum your subfloor from loose debris or dirt. Also, check for damages on your subfloor. This is a vital step that is frequently ignored. Make sure the subfloor is dry before installation, and if there are any damages fix them.
You can repair or replace damaged wood and nail down nails that are sticking out. Ensure your floor is flat!
Foam underlayment comes in rolls ranging from 100 to 1500 square feet. However, it is advisable to lay out a roll at a time to maintain neat work. Work in the direction that you will be installing your vinyl material. Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions as well.
After laying out the underlayment, secure each row in place through taping but DO NOT overlap the pieces.
Finish your installation by laying your vinyl material piece by piece carefully on top of the underlayment. As you do this, ensure that the joints do not line up row after another to keep the flooring from separating over time. Keep at it until the project is finished to enjoy the new look!
You can find luxury vinyl from here on Amazon. On the other hand, if you want to learn more about it before you buy it you can check out this article.
Use cork flooring
Cork floors don’t only dampen the sound, they absorb it too. It is a buoyant, impermeable, cellular material. This is one of the few sustainable and recyclable soundproofing floor material you can get your hands on.
Even better news, these will not break your bank account. It is durable, inexpensive, healthy (by healthy I mean anti-microbial and water-resistant), and gives both sound and heat insulation.
What more could anybody want on an office cubicle floor? On top of all that, they come in a variety of colors and textures to suit your aesthetic needs as well as in planks, tiles, panels, and underlayment.
Before moving on, I’ve been working on ‘a DIY guide to soundproof your floor’ on my blog. To check it out just follow this link and get a few tips on how you can soundproof your office cubicle floor.
Methods to soundproof your office cubicle walls and ceiling
Hang sound absorbing fabric on the walls
To soundproof your office cubicle by altering the wall structure can be quite cumbersome and economically straining to the management.
But having thick fabric on your walls which helps reduce the echoes in your office cubicle space will be an easier option to soundproof your office cubicle.
However, you will find this efficient if your work environment has low to medium amounts of noise otherwise this method will not be of much help.
Soundproof curtains or blankets are a good example. They are usually massive and thick and have a layer of soundproof material that traps noise in its threads.
Remember, they need to hang from the ceiling to the floor for this method to be effective enough. Alternatively, you can get some soundproof wall-divider curtains at a very affordable price here on Amazon.
Attach acoustic panels in your office cubicle
Yes, they are exactly what you think. Acoustic panels/foams used in music recording studios can be installed in your office cubicle wall too. They will reduce the bouncing echoes in your office cubicle as well as absorb the surrounding noise.
They are a sponge-like soft material that can be installed easily and I can assure you they will help significantly as you will experience less harsh noises, hence lesser distractions at work. You can buy an entire pack here on Amazon and distribute them to different positions yourself.
They come in different colors so you can choose one that will complement your office décor. There are several ways you can get your acoustic panels installed:
- Attach acoustic panels to the walls of your office cubicle
As you do this, take care not to damage the walls of your cubicle. In case you are wondering, these are not that expensive. To know how to attach them to your wall with ease, watch this video.
- Suspend the absorption panels in your office cubicle
Most businesses prefer hanging absorption acoustic panels vertically in their office to installing office dividers. Absorption panels are rather more efficient than the normal acoustic foams because they have fiberglass at the back that absorbs sound bouncing off the walls hence trapping more sound.
However, I can tell you these don’t come cheap but you get what you pay for. Either way, you can’t put a price on peace. Here is a video on how to suspend absorption acoustic panels to soundproof your office cubicle.
- Attach acoustic tiles on the ceiling of your office cubicle
Attaching acoustic tiles on the ceiling will absorb sound from below and also prevent sound from above from coming through. These tiles are specifically efficient particularly if your office plan has several floors.
To learn how to attach these, watch the video below.
Seal all holes and gaps
A significant 90% of sound travels through the air. Having holes, gaps, or cracks in your office cubicle wall predisposes you to noise pollution as this is where sound would travel through first. The sealing of holes and crevices in your office cubicle is more vital than adding mass. Sealing can be done by applying soundproofing glue such as the Green Glue that you can find here on Amazon.
Green Glue is a noise proofing sealant with special sound-absorbing compounds that people use to fill gaps and joints as well as while working on drywalls. It is simple, versatile, and cost-effective. Green Glue does not crack up with age and can also be painted after drying.
Be careful when applying as it is really powerful and always wear working gloves while doing the task. Consider watching this video first for clear instructions on how to apply GreenGlue to the drywall.
Alternatively, you can use small pieces or foams to fill up spaces and crevices in your office cubicle. This is a more practical and cost-free way to soundproof your office cubicle.
Soundproofing your office cubicle louvered door
Louvered doors are used for privacy and ventilation. They will also bring in noise and distracting sounds from your surroundings. To keep you well focused at work, soundproof louvered doors and, if present, louvered windows or air vents in your office cubicle.
Consider using soundproof blankets, mass loaded vinyl or covering the spaces with sealant for perfect results. However, this cannot block 100% of the noise but it would help to make the sounds somewhat softer.
If you want to have a quiet environment in the workplace, the open-door policy that most of the offices have needs got to be reviewed. Though sometimes it is important to keep the doors open, yet a tremendous amount of noise travels through these openings.
You can consider installing a privacy door to combat some of the obtrusive sounds. There are a few options available, however, my best recommendation goes to the following folding door that you can find on Amazon:
It is a solid vinyl panel door with flexible vinyl hinges to stop the draft. Furthermore, it is pre-assembled and pre-finished; it could be used as a double door or as two single doors. What’s best, it is an attractive and cost-effective solution for all the privacy needs in the office, thus reducing the noise. This door fits 24 inches to 36 inches and a height of 80 inches. The price is reasonable, and the door looks good when installed.
NOTE: To learn more on how to soundproof your louvered structures, visit my article that covers that topic in specific, and get problem-solving solutions.
Other alternatives you can consider to soundproof your office cubicle
Use white noise machines
Of course, there is some science behind white noise but we’ll not talk about science, we’ll focus more on what they can do for you. Though the people who usually use this type of machine are generally those that have sleeping issues white noise machines actually do not cause sleepiness. That is only a myth.
Here’s why: White noise machines act as good sound conditioners therefore masking and blocking out unwanted and distracting sounds. As a result, they help you to relax better and focus more intently.
So for those who need some focus to get to sleep, they’ll get to sleep, and for you who needs some peace and quiet to get some work done, you can do so comfortably. White noise can work just as good for you while you are at work in your office cubicle. Other than that, you will not have to install anything or even bother your co-workers.
Some of the white noise machines in the market include the LectroFanwhite Noise Sound Machine, Marpac Dohm-DS Dual Speed Sound Conditioner, HoMedics Sound Spa Relaxation Machine, just to mention a few.
My personal favorite is the following noise machine that you can find on Amazon:
It is being used since 1962; this model features fan-based natural white noise and has soothing ambient sounds of rushing air without disturbing moving air. Its sound experience can be customized that makes it simple to create a personalized environment for sound, has excellent ability to mask background noise, which allows better sleep.
Invest in noise-canceling headphones
It’s rather a good idea that you invest in a pair of high-quality noise-canceling headphones. I got myself a pair of these and well, they were quite a lifesaver at work.
Noise-canceling headphones have a noise control system that captures your voice and ignores other background noises. They also come in different features like normal earphones. Some can pair with Bluetooth and therefore enable hands-free calling.
To know the exact type of headphones that will be perfect for you, check out my other article that has listed the best noise-canceling headphones on the market.
Scratch the open-door policy
If your office cubicle happens to have a door, then probably the open-door policy is not news to you. Like I mentioned earlier, tremendous amounts of sound travel through the air. For your peace and quiet, I suggest you to consider closing the door of your office.
However, given that your management has no room for insubordination of any kind whatsoever, installing swinging doors could somewhat soundproof your office cubicle. While doing this, make sure that the door fits the opening for effective results.
Re-adjust the position of your co-workers
Well, it’s as easy as it sounds but only with a co-operative team. Even so, if you are the boss or a people’s person this should be a piece of cake. Working in an open space set-up, it is more likely than not you’re all divided into teams or departments.
With time, you will probably note the noisiest and the quiet teams. In mine, marketers were the noisiest, sorry to say. But how about using this observation to your advantage? Rearrange the layout to have the noisy ones in a block, as far as possible from the quiet ones.
This way, those who are bothered by the noise will work more comfortably while those who don’t mind it keep rocking the boat.
Educate on cubicle etiquette
If a good number of your co-workers find the noise annoying then maybe it’s time you took the initiative and involve the management. You can set off a program to raise awareness on office etiquette by printing a directive or emailing everyone on common cubicle etiquette rules.
Some of these rules can include:
No talking policy; this only allows people to whisper in the cubicle portion of the office. Many successful businesses have this rule & it does work quite well and quickly becomes easy for everyone to adopt.
Having a room setup that is separate from the cubicle area as the conference call room is a better idea. This room could also be used if you need to make a call using a speakerphone. Many offices have used this technique quite successfully.
No chatting should be allowed over the cubicles. Sometimes, no matter what you do on your end to minimize noise, there are a few people in the office who are excessively disruptive and noisy. Better to mention this to HR so that the team could send a warning.
Determine discussion spaces
Rather than creating sound and noise in the work area, the organizations could additionally mark areas around the office that could encourage discussion and interaction among the employees. This will help people working in cubicles stay relaxed and calm.
There are lunch areas, recreation rooms, or even phone rooms that can help the staff members to communicate with each other than during work at their desks because those are moments to stay quieter. So if you intend to take part in the discussion, there are areas dedicated to this.
Tiny sections can also be provided to employees whose work duties include making calls. These sections could encourage the employees to make phone calls without disturbing other workers that try to concentrate on the cubicles that are already noisy. To do this you could request the management to install headsets with microphones in every cubicle.
An acoustic telephone hood could also be included in the office to make it available for use for private telephone calls. These office phone booths are soundproof and provide a peaceful place in co-working spaces. They are also fully equipped with all types of gadgets that are required.
I would recommend the following one that you can find on Amazon:
This telephone hood is suitable for industrial premises or commercial locations like shops and offices that are designed to fit all types of mounted phones. The small phones can also be mounted directly onto the back wall of the hood. It is manufactured in glass reinforced plastic and has a good ability to reduce noise when the workers are communicating on the phone.
Some of the steps such as installing vinyl underlayment, cork flooring, or educating on office etiquette will require a little bit more effort and patience, but if you choose to do it, I am confident you will achieve a great noise-free working environment.
I have done all these myself and the changes that happened in our office in terms of noise are simply amazing! Not only the atmosphere is better, but also the employees could focus on their job duties easier and be more productive!
Additionally, if you are having a home office that you would like to soundproof as well then check out my other article that covers everything you need to know about soundproofing a home office. Cheers!