How sound absorbing plants can help your office focus

Sound absorbing plants can help your staff focus and perform, despite a noisy workspace. Here we look into the science of how.

Businesses expect a lot from their office spaces, which is unsurprising considering the expense of city centre locations. They want enough room, a space flexible enough to be reconfigured, a place that looks great and one that enhances team wellness and collaboration. To achieve this adaptability designers are turning to open-plan layouts. But whilst this layout style has many advantages, it is also a perfect recipe for distracting noise levels.

But it’s here that office planting can help! Office plants are an effective way of absorbing sound and reducing echoes.

How do plants reduce noise levels in the office?

Office plants help reduce noise levels in three main ways;

  • Deflection – When sound waves hit a hard wall or surface, they are bounced back in the direction they came from. A bit like kicking a football against a wall. But in contrast, when a sound wave hits a plant, the flexible surface vibrates and transforms sound waves into other kinds of energy.
  • Absorption – The leaves of plants have far higher absorption than hard surfaces. Have you ever walked through a forest and been amazed at the silence? That’s because the greenery is absorbing all the ambient noise.
  • Refraction – Refraction refers to reducing the echoes bouncing off hard surfaces. Imagine a large room with hard floors – sound waves bounce off the floor and the ceiling, creating echoes. Add a carpet, and the echoes disappear. Plants that cover surface areas will help achieve a similar effect.

Acoustic planting – where is best to put them?

Open plan offices are a prime example of a noisy area. Although much of the noise around the office is generated by work related tasks, too much of it can really impact productivity.  Research in 2013 showed that 60% of cubicle workers and 50% of all workers without partitions found sound privacy to be one of their top frustrations at work, and one of the leading factors in decreased workplace satisfaction. In these areas, plants are often effective at preventing sound travel when located higher up, such as on cabinet tops like this. They also can be used to zone areas and can be placed next to sources of regular noise, such as printers and air-con units.

Larger rooms, such as an atrium or reception, are spaces prone to echo and often benefit from the acoustic effects of planting. These front-of-house areas are also the shop face of your office. An impressive planting scheme helps convey a good first impression to visitors, clients and staff who enter.

Break-out spaces, kitchens and eating areas are also often a hotspot for noise, especially in open plan layouts. Using plants as ‘partitions’ or ‘barriers’ to separate such areas can reduce the sound that travels into the surrounding office space, as well as being soft visual barriers.

It’s also worth remembering that larger, leafy plants are more effective than smaller ones. The greater the surface area, the greater the deflection, absorption and refraction.

It’s not only the acoustic benefits

Of course, the benefits of plants extends far beyond the acoustics. Aside from the visual wow factor, plants have been proven to reduce stress, boost creativity and increase productivity as well as several other positives. We have explored these in more depth in our insight, How do Office Plants effect your Staff? The dramatic increase of green office space is proof of the many advantages that plants, flowers and trees can bring to a workspace.

Speak to the planting experts

Valley Provincial have been installing and maintaining plants in offices across London for over 40 years. If you are looking to introduce some green into your workspace, please get in touch today and we will be pleased to talk it through.

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