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Soundproof Cubicles

How to Soundproof Cubicles

How to Soundproof Cubicles

In the age of beanbags, shared desks, and chairs you don’t quite know how to sit in, the cubicle tends to get a bad rap. We’re here to stand up for the tried and true cubicle. When done right, cubicles offer enough privacy for employees working on confidential or sensitive information. Cubicles also help prevent distractions for work that requires focus and concentration. And while giving everyone their own private office sounds great, it can be a big practical challenge. Cubicles give companies and building owners more flexibility in layout and help keeps costs down since they don’t require complex HVAC or lighting systems. There are also “soft benefits” that are often discussed but hard to quantify, such as increased interactions among employees.

Unfortunately when most people think about cubicles, they think about a grid of dull gray walls that hardly keep out any noise. We’ve all had the pleasure of working next to cubicle neighbors who refuse to use headphones, type like they are punishing their keyboard, and constantly need to clear their throat. We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to create a productive, collaborative, and cost-effective workspace with cubicles.

In the age of beanbags, shared desks, and chairs you don’t quite know how to sit in, the cubicle tends to get a bad rap. We’re here to stand up for the tried and true cubicle. When done right, cubicles offer enough privacy for employees working on confidential or sensitive information. Cubicles also help prevent distractions for work that requires focus and concentration. And while giving everyone their own private office sounds great, it can be a big practical challenge. Cubicles give companies and building owners more flexibility in layout and help keeps costs down since they don’t require complex HVAC or lighting systems. There are also “soft benefits” that are often discussed but hard to quantify, such as increased interactions among employees.

Unfortunately when most people think about cubicles, they think about a grid of dull gray walls that hardly keep out any noise. We’ve all had the pleasure of working next to cubicle neighbors who refuse to use headphones, type like they are punishing their keyboard, and constantly need to clear their throat. We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to create a productive, collaborative, and cost-effective workspace with cubicles.

Free USA shipping
Free USA shipping

Popular Products for Cubicle Noise Reduction


PolyZorbe™ Polyester Acoustic Panel
EcoVerb™ Cotton Fiber Acoustic Panel
Acoustic Pro™ Anchorage Fabric Wrapped Panel

How to Soundproof a Cubicle

Back 30 to 40 years ago, office soundproofing was easier when all cubicles came with soundproofing by default. All the walls were absorptive, and sound was controlled quite well. Over time, things changed. Some of the change was due to new design aesthetics in modern offices. Some of it was the desire for a more open office. Some of it was to driving down the overall cost. As with any story about change over time, it’s complicated. But the end result isn’t complicated. Today a cube with effective sound control is hard to find, and if you can find one the fits your needs – chances are it costs 2x what a comparable cubicle without acoustical materials will cost you.

For all of you in desperate need of cubicle soundproofing, reducing cubicle noise IS DOABLE. It also can be done very cost-effectively. You just need to know what you’re doing. Before going into the details of a process anyone can follow to soundproof a cubicle, let’s spend a minute on what kind of results you can expect.

private office vs open office noise level satisfaction
private office vs open office noise level satisfaction

Reduce Cubicle Noise by 50% or More

With soundproofing, you can reduce the noise in your open office by 50% or more. 50%!! There are two key factors driving the reduction:

  1. The first factor is the actual absorption you are adding to each cubicle. By surrounding people with absorptive materials, more sound is absorbed instead of reflected off hard surfaces. Less reflected sound means less overall noise in the space. Acoustic panels are a common solution.
  2. The second factor gets into a field calls psychoacoustics. When people perceive the area around them as quieter, they tend to speak quieter. If everyone is speaking just a little bit quieter in their cubes, less overall noise is being put into the space which further reduces the noise level.

If your cubicles are in an environment where people are on the phone or otherwise spending a lot of time speaking, effective acoustical treatment is an absolute MUST to get the most productivity out of your team.

acoustic ceiling tiles and acoustic baffles absorb sound

Steps to Soundproof Cubicles

Now that we've covered all the ways you can soundproof a cubicle, let's summarize your cubicle soundproofing options:

  1. Fill the core of the cubicles with sound absorbing material
  2. Add sound absorbing material to the cubicle walls and other hard surfaces
  3. Soundproof the ceiling with soundproof ceiling tiles or baffles
  4. Use electronic sound masking to please those in the space

Questions to Ask to Determine the Best Soundproofing Treatment for Your Cubicles

There are 4 questions you need to ask to determine the best soundproofing treatment for your cubes:

  1. Are the faces of the cubes perforated?
  2. Would I prefer to treat the face of the cube or the top of the cube?
  3. Do I want the acoustical material to be tackable?
  4. Do I care what it looks like?
cubicle configuration to best block noise

Are the Cubicle Panels Perforated

If the panels are perforated, there are tiny little holes that will allow sound to pass through the face. Most cubicles do not have perforated panels, but if yours are… this is an extremely easy and cost-effective fix.

For perforated cubes, you just need to fill the cavity behind the perforations with absorptive material. The most cost-effective option here is CelluZorbe, which is a panel we make out of recycled newspapers (no itch – you could sleep on it). If you’d like the material to be tackable, you can upgrade to the CelluZorbe 13lb HD version, which is denser.

Would I prefer to treat the face or the top of the cube?

Depending on your situation and preferences, you likely lean towards treating either the top of the face of your cubicles. If you’d prefer to treat the top of the cube, we recommend our BlocknZorbe Sound Panels which both block and absorb sound. The 2” thick version is best for cubicle applications. The panels come 2’ x 2’ or 2’ x 4’ standard, but they can be cut to other sizes. The also can be painted. They are easy to attach to the top of the cube – the preferred method just depends on your cubicle.

If you’d prefer to treat the face, there are so many options! Here’s a quick list plus a table where we outline the key characteristics:

  • BlocknZorbe again good, durable option. People choose it often because it’s waterproof and super easy to keep clean.
  • CelluZorbe or CelluZorbe 13lb HD are the most cost-effective options, and will get the job done. CelluZorbe also can be used as “hidden absorption” and stuffed in a variety of places if the budget is tight but you’d rather not see the material.
  • EcoVerb acoustic panels are a bonded cotton panel that comes in 6 different colors.
  • PolyZorbe polyester panels come in 12 different colors, and are more decorative and high-end looking.
  • Acoustic Pro fabric wrapped panels can be done with any fabric you choose, and also fit in that high-end look.
Product Name Type of Panel Main Benefit Tackable? Cost

Polypropylene beaded panels

Durable, waterproof, easy to clean

Yes

$$

Cellulose fibers

Most cost-effective option

Yes

$

Recycled cotton fibers

Recycled material, eco-friendly

Yes

$

Polyester panels

Cost effective high-end looking panel

Yes

$$

Fabric wrapped with sound absorbing core

professional looking and performing sound panels

No

$$$

Use Cubicle Layout to Maximize Soundproofing

The absolute best way to combat sound is through distance, the farther you are from a noise, the harder it is to hear. In cubicles, to help with speech privacy, your goal should be to increase the distance between employees. This doesn’t necessarily mean bigger workstations. Find ways to place desks inside the workstation that not only increase distance between employees but also face them away from each other as to create a less direct path for sound when people are talking.

Cubicle configuration to best block noise
cubicle configuration to best block noise

Use this same creative thinking when setting up the cubicles themselves. Orient employees so that they face away from each other and away from the entryways to their cubicles. Create more distance by staggering cubicles rather than having them directly opposite each other. Not only will this increase speech privacy but will also help you determine how to reduce echo in a room. One of the most effective and low-cost ways to increase speech privacy is by simply breaking the line of sight between employees. As they say, out of sight, out of mind. By blocking employees' view of each other, not only will they feel like they have more privacy at their workstation, but they're less likely to be distracted and engage in conversation that would disrupt their coworkers.

Electronic background masking

Install an electronic background masking noise and play it uniformly throughout the office. This often takes the form of white noise and shouldn’t exceed 50 dB, and should be as set as low as possible below that figure. Sound masking is a great strategy for creating a relaxing environment and even works with pets, specifically for a soundproof dog crate. As general guidance, as long as unwanted conversations are at least 10 dB below the background noise, almost no one is annoyed. Once these conversations are 5 dB above the background noise, almost everyone wants them to can it.

Although adding noise to a room sounds counter-intuitive, this low, unobtrusive sound acts as a blanket for the rest of the crowd noise happening in your office. Background noise should never exceed 50 dB! Any higher and people tend to raise their voice to speak over the masking noise, defeating the purpose of masking in the first place.

Encourage employees to adapt their workstations to make noise levels comfortable for themselves. Things like personal white noise machines and desk fans can help individuals create a comfortable sound environment. Noise cancelling headphones are the absolute most effective personal solution to sound blocking, and have the added benefit of signaling to coworkers that you’re busy!

BlocknZorbe that Cubicle Wall

One of the best tools for soundproofing a cubicle is BlocknZorbe, because it both blocks and absorbs sound. You can't solve cubicle noise problems 100%, but it's a useful tool to increase the amount of sound blocked by a barrier while also adding some needed absorption. Plus you can use it as a bulletin board! Give us a call to discuss your cubicle project if you want to discuss how BlocknZorbe may help.

  • One of the few acoustical materials with both an STC and NRC rating
  • Lightweight and easy to clean
  • Water resistant, impact resistance, and tackable
  • Charcoal and white color options

WE CAN HELP!

There are dozens of variables that can affect the needs for your open office space. The building, the type of work you do, the equipment in the office… it all can matter. We’d love to help you find solutions for your office. Contact us and we’ll ask you a few questions about the size of your space, the types of noise you’re dealing with, and the speech levels you’re aiming for. We can work with you to offer customized recommendations to turn your office into an audible oasis.

Have questions about your project?

Call us at 1.800.679.8511