Architects are increasingly raising the alarm that the way office soundproofing is designed has to change, in light of dramatic shifts that have emerged during the Covid-19 era. After much of the world’s population spent extended periods of time working from home, acoustic sensibilities have been affected in two key ways. First, people have been exposed to working in an environment that is at times much quieter than an office, and at times more chaotic and noisy. A nascent desire for acoustic balance has bloomed.

Work From Home

Second, as people have returned to offices, hybrid online-offline work has become the norm, and requirements for adequately acoustically controlled environments for online meetings have become paramount. In this article, we’ll explore these shifts, look at the challenges they present, and suggest solutions that any office can easily embrace to improve their soundproofing.

Covid-19 Has Changed Our Acoustic Sensibilities

As architect Blaine Brownell stated as early as September 2020, ‘One of the most significant realizations to emerge from the pandemic is the importance of acoustics.’ Having to work and study from home created all sorts of challenges, not least the need for privacy and quiet. With frequent interruptions from children or pets, neighbours mowing their lawns or TV sets on loud from adjacent rooms, maintaining focus was often a challenge. It’s no wonder that sales of noise-cancelling headphones skyrocketed.


On the other hand, there were moments during the pandemic when many people were met with a level of quietness, absence of noise, that was just as jarring, if not more. Commentators wrote how the absence of office chatter, the sound of coffee machines and printers, and the gentle hum of air conditioners, was adding to a growing sense of isolation and loneliness among many people. A website and Spotify account called The Sound of Colleagueswent viral, for it generated exactly the background noise that was lacking. In either case, studies (1, 2) are repeatedly finding that the degree to which we now pay attention to acoustics has risen.


Workplace Challenge Number One – Hybrid Work

Once much of the world returned to offices, one might have assumed that things would go back to the way they were pre-pandemic. This has not been the case, however. Most workplaces are instead embracing a hybrid form of work, wherein employees may select certain days to work from home or remotely.

Moreover, the embrace of video meeting technologies during the pandemic has changed the way that many meetings are conducted. Whereas previously, travelling for business meetings was default, even between countries, companies are now increasingly embracing the notion that there’s no real need for the costly and time-consuming expense. As Forbes wrote in March 2022, business travel has changed forever. Why pay for flights, hotels, meals and time-in-lieu when a simple Zoom call would suffice?

Online Meeting

One consequence of this hybrid model of working, however, is a challenge in maintaining acoustically suitable offices. A Zoom call is no good if conducted in a noisy environment. Some offices are now installing special call pods, small sound-insulated booths especially for this purpose. But not all offices will be able to afford these, and many meetings will have too many participants for them to be adequate. Certain meetings will still need to be taken in the midst of a busy office environment, or in a meeting room.

Office Pod-soundproofing

Workplace Challenge Number Two – General Acoustic Sensitivity

Beyond the hybrid online-offline work model, there’s also the fact that we have become more sensitive to our acoustic environments to contend with. Like the prisoner who is released in Plato’s allegory of the cave, we have now witnessed a different reality, and when we return to our original point of departure, we may find it wanting. While loneliness and isolation did indeed increase as a result of our acoustic environment during the pandemic, so too did feelings of tranquillity and calm, and frequent productivity gains.

Soundproofing for Office Acoustis

The challenge is how to balance these conflicting pulls on our sensibilities, how to create an environment that is not too noisy, but noisy enough. For this, office soundproofing has to be employed intelligently. Contrary to what some may think, installing acoustic control products is not a matter of taking as much sound out of a room as possible. Rather, it is a matter of balancing the degree to which sound reverberates, the degree to which it is repeated as it bounces off surfaces likes walls and ceilings. No two offices will be the same, as the materials, structure and layout will determine how sound behaves.

Sound insulation Solutions – Meeting Rooms

For meetings that need to happen in meeting rooms, there are several elegant solutions that can help achieve acoustic balance, while maintaining a high aesthetic standard.

Acoustic panels on moveable partitions-soundproofing

In the pictures above, note the movable partitions that are used to dynamically adjust the size of the meeting rooms. These are fitted with ZENFEEL Acoustic Panels, to create significant sound-proofing between the different areas.

Meeting room acoustic treatment-soundproofing

In this picture, we can see ZENFEEL Acoustic Panels suspended from the ceiling, and Groove Cut Acoustic Panels lining the walls. These work by effectively absorbing sound, and are laid out in an even formation not only for aesthetics, but so that the effect is even across.

Sound Insulation Solutions – Large Offices

Open office area ceiling acoustic panels
Ceiling acoustic panels details

Here, you can see how ZENFEEL Smart-panel grey and yellow ceiling tiles. Blending seamlessly into the existing ceiling layout, giving accents of colour, they would help anyone in a large office below them to make a Zoom call without too much disturbance.

Flakes Curtain
Flakes Curtain

Here, snowflake curtain dividers have been cut and moulded from acoustic panels, contributing to soundproofing between different areas of the office.

Sound Insulation Solutions – Other Office Environments

Wave embossed polyester acoustic panels

Reception areas are usually the most open spaces of all in an office, meaning for high levels of sound reverberation. Here, covering the pillar on the left, are ZENFEEL Wave Panels, which effectively boost aural privacy.

Standing partition-soundproofing

Breakout areas and relaxation zones can be effectively insulated with dividers made with ZENFEEL Acoustic Panels, as is seen in the picture above. This gives occupants both visual and aural privacy.

How to get started for soundproofing?

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly thrown up changes in the way we need to think about office soundproofing. The first step is understanding the importance of these, and then adjusting attitudes in line with the changes, so as to maximize employee health and wellbeing. The help of a professional acoustics company like ZENFEEL can be invaluable in finding affordable, actionably acoustic solutions.