A professional resource for the design curious

Get the latest design news direct to your inbox!

Addressing noise in the agile workplace

Relying on acoustic design solutions to help mitigate noise and improve efficiency at the workplace with Haworth.

According to the Workplace Experience Revolution Report by Leesman Index. ‘Noise levels emerge as a critical factor when it comes to physical features that support getting things done. Employees who are engaged in individual work will need environments with the right acoustic landscape, which for many people (but not all) means quiet and calm.’ The report goes to reveal further that erratic noise disturbances “will most certainly impact an employee’s ability to focus, finish tasks and complete them to a high standard.’

Agile and open offices are the new reality of the modern workplace. Moreover, with the apparent benefits of collaboration, engagement, knowledge transfer and improved space efficiency, there is no doubt that open offices are here to stay.

Another Haworth whitepaper on the topic of “Why We Can’t Focus at Work,” finds that ’employees listening to auditory distractions during difficult work requiring sustained focus are more susceptible to performing poorly over those not exposed to these distractions.’

You see, managed sound in any workplace is desirable. Think pleasing background sounds like the gentle undecipherable chatter of colleagues or soft music. Dead silence, can, after all, feel intimidating. And, while managed sound isn’t loud enough to cause discomfort, speech can be particularly disturbing when you understand what’s being said, but it isn’t entirely relevant for you. An intelligible background conversation will instinctively tune your brain in to listen, and that’s where the problem starts.

As it turns out, it could take an average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus and get back to a particular task after being interrupted, according to a study by the University of California Irvine. Now, that’s a colossal loss of time and energy.

Well-designed sound environments could help combat the noise situation. In particular, acoustic products that strive to enhance business performance by improving employee productivity could make for key integrations to existing workplaces. Favouring concentration, these products aid collaboration without distracting surrounding groups who are not involved in the discussion.

Supporting the changing needs of today’s workspaces through the creation of beautiful acoustic solutions are brands like BuzziSpace and IQ Commercial.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the offerings from the brands.


Designed by Alain Gilles, BuzziSpark by BuzziSpace is a unique acoustic seating design that helps support privacy as well as focus in open areas. Available in a range of configurations, the seating pod is particularly useful in open-plan offices and could be used to create a private meeting area without causing distraction or interruptions to those seated in the vicinity.  


A freestanding screen/room divider developed by Sas Adrianenssens, BuzziCactus is ideal for separating spaces and reducing noise within agile workspaces. Not just that, the panels are available in a range of textiles to help you screen out unwanted views.

Return Focus Pod Lite

The Return Focus Pod Lite is part of the popular pod series by IQ Commercial, designed by Christopher Metcalfe. Offering privacy, the soft upholstered walls of the pod work to absorb sound while providing refuge from visual and acoustic distractions. These pods are movable and ideal for an agile workspace.

BIP Acoustic Pendants

Developed by David Trubridge Design Studio in collaboration with IQ Commercial, the BIP Acoustic Pendants work to soften sounds and reduce reverberations in workplaces. The pendant complements IQ Commercial’s other acoustic products like the Hush Lights and the Focus Pod series of workstations. What’s more, they’re available in a range of 12 colours to suit myriad décor styles and are safe, non-toxic and, non-allergic as well.

Ultimately, excellent workplace acoustics are a must-have on every design team’s checklist. Even a small or moderate change could bring about a shift from employees looking for work elsewhere to employees performing better and choosing to stay back.

Haworth champions the cause of transforming workplaces through a range of design products and solutions that helps foster a greater sense of comfort and productivity. Both BuzziSpace and IQ Commercial are available through Haworth in Australia.

INDESIGN is on instagram

Follow @indesignlive

The Indesign Collection

A searchable and comprehensive guide for specifying leading products and their suppliers

Indesign Our Partners

Keep up to date with the latest and greatest from our industry BFF's!

Related Stories

While you were sleeping

The internet never sleeps! Here's the stuff you might have missed