There’s been a trend in recent decades toward open office spaces. This is great for collaborative work because you don’t have to go anywhere to have a quick conversation with your colleagues. However, when you need to focus and get some independent work done, it can be difficult to do so with all the noises of the office swirling around.
Luckily, there are a number of solutions available to help you get some peace and quiet in your open office space so that you can have the best of both worlds.
1. Panel systems
Panel systems are one of the most drastic solutions, but they’re the quickest and easiest way to transform a large open space into an area where everyone has a bit of their own space. Sure, the cubicle gets a bad rap, but it also allows people to have a bit of quiet and privacy while also being in close connection with their coworkers.
Panel systems are extremely versatile, and you can arrange them in a myriad of different ways to create the kind of space that best fits your work and company culture.
2. Separate meeting rooms
Having an open office space is great for creating a sense of community between team members. At the same time, there are certain types of activities like brainstorming sessions or conference calls that require the privacy of a separate room. That way, discussions can go on as long as they need to without any risk of disturbing employees who are trying to concentrate.
Providing a designated space where employees can take phone calls and work collaboratively will encourage them to do so more often, so make sure to stock meeting rooms with versatile seating and technology that allows for easy communication with off-site clients or colleagues. The noise level in open-concept spaces will go down significantly when employees have the option to take their meetings behind closed doors.
3. Couches and other soft furniture
Fabric absorbs sound, so the more large fabric-covered furniture pieces you can place around the office, the more the sound will be muffled. Plus, couches and comfortable chairs give employees somewhere to sit other than their desk when they need a change of scenery, which can help them be more productive. Couches aren’t just for your lobby area—they can be a solid addition to any workspace, especially if your employees use laptops and can easily move to sit in a different space.
Continuing the principle that fabric muffles sound, it’s a good idea to incorporate as many soft window coverings into your office space as possible (rugs are great for this as well). Replace the ugly builder-grade blinds on your windows with some beautiful curtains that match your company’s brand and style. They’ll make the workspace quieter, and provide the added benefit of making it a more attractive space. When people like the space they are in, they’re more likely to focus on the task at hand.
5. Noise-canceling headphones
If you’re not in charge of the decor and layout of your office space, most of these ideas might be a little difficult to accomplish. However, noise-canceling headphones are available to anyone—and could make the perfect holiday gift for employees. If you work in a large open-plan office and need to be able to focus on detailed work, noise-canceling headphones are your new best friend. These are an affordable way to block out the din of even the loudest office.
Play your favorite music or podcasts, or simply wear them to mute external disturbances. As an added bonus, people are less likely to interrupt someone who is wearing headphones so you might find that people are less inclined to ask you unnecessary questions.
Sound and interruptions are two of the biggest complaints about open office spaces, and for a good reason—it takes time for people to get their focus back after being distracted. By putting in the extra effort to create a quiet space, you’ll be able to be more productive, and everyone who shares the space will be happier.
This article originally appeared on Quill.com on November 30, 2017.