If you're among the estimated 50 percent of busy Americans who worked from home during the pandemic, noise has likely become an issue. Traffic, leaf blowers, a neighbor's TV on the first floor, barking dogs, and wild children may not have bothered you much in the old days when you were gone all day. But now it's one crazy racket that breaks your focus and disrupts your virtual meetings.
It's worse if you have a roommate or spouse working at your home. You hear more than you want from their phone calls and keyboard clicks, not to mention their sighs, scratches, belly gurgles, and hiccups. Roommates, including children and pets, push the boundaries of the workday in ways that coworkers never would. It is enough to make even open office designs, the corporate equivalent of a mosh pit, appear like oases of peace and quiet.
However, it is possible to create a workspace at home that will limit, if not soundproof, sound. Soundproofing requires extensive modifications (tearing out, pinning, floating, and re-insulating walls, ceilings, and floors) that most people are not ready or able to do. However, the sound limitation is simpler and cheaper. While not achieving complete silence, you can muffle or muffle sounds so quietly that they are productive and maintain some semblance of sanity.
Working against you can be the prevailing contemporary design aesthetic. Wood, tile and polished concrete floors; Stone and granite countertops, replacement furniture, high ceilings, and open floor plans look great but are an echo and reverberation nightmare. Such interiors actually add to the existing noise and make it even more intrusive no matter where you are in the house. Noise-canceling headphones and white noise devices can only do so much.
Just ask Jordan Fowler, director of business development for a Houston law firm. She works from home with her husband, twin babies, a toddler and two rescue dogs. Your flowing and open single story home has tile floors throughout. Even when she is in the home office that she shares with her husband who is a data engineer, she hears all kinds of excitement in children and dogs. When she has an important call, she retires to her toddler's room, which is carpeted and has many comfortable surfaces: "I find that I can hear and hear better there."
Carpets, upholstered furniture, textile art, and pillows are your friends when it comes to sound control. Sound waves bounce off solid, flat surfaces such as drywall, stone, wood or steel and create a cacophony of reflected sound. However, sound waves penetrate softer surfaces such as felt, foam or wool. "There's friction, so the sound wave breaks up as heat and less noise return to the room," said Scott Sommerfeldt, a physics professor at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Because of this, walk-in closets can be ideal spaces for makeshift offices. All clothing and bed linen offer natural sound absorption. Gabra Zackman, a Queens-based audiobook narrator, uses a closet as a reception booth while she waits for the pandemic.
"I ended up in a house in Westchester with my mother and four cats and the quietest room was my father's old closet," said Ms. Zackman. She took out half the coats, nailed fleece blankets to the walls, piled pillows, and set up a small desk with her recorder. "I record from a closet for big publishers," she said.
Recognition…about soundproof cow
If you want to achieve the same effect with less claustrophobia, you can line a room with sound absorbing wall panels and ceiling tiles that are easy to install temporarily or permanently. The cost ranges from $ 20 to $ 75 per square foot, depending on the design and absorption level. Some are sculptural and have magnetic interlocking pieces that look like colorful lozenges, puzzle pieces, or even natural moss. You can also have the panels printed with artwork or photos that you have chosen yourself. But even hanging cork boards or pinning Berber carpets to the wall can soften the sound in a room, as can bringing in some large and green potted plants.
If you share a home office with someone, you can dampen the sound and increase privacy by adding felt-wrapped partitions, sound screens, or acoustic curtains, available from vendors like Turf Design, Herman Miller, and Soundproof Cow. If the door to your office is hollow, consider replacing it with a solid door. Or you can cover a hollow door with soundproofing material like bulk-laden vinyl, which will only get you back about $ 2 per square foot. Just be sure to seal the edges with acoustic gaskets and bevels. Otherwise, the clay will only seep through the cracks.
To prevent noise from entering the home, consider installing soundproof windows, which are usually several layers of treated glass with gaps in between. While they are expensive ($ 400 to $ 1,000 per window, depending on size and thickness), they essentially expose sound waves so much resistance that the sound collapses from exhaustion before it enters the room. And bonus: soundproof windows are energy efficient and are therefore often tax deductible.
A few years ago, as Jonathan Fields, a The writer and entrepreneur, who wanted to create a quiet space for his Goodlife Project podcast to record, installed four layers of acoustic glass on the window of a small room in his Manhattan apartment. Although the window faces Broadway and is over a subway station, Mr. Fields says the room is sometimes referred to as the "womb" because "it's so peaceful, nourishing, and nurturing." The room is currently also serving as an office as Mr. Fields, his wife and college-aged daughter all work from home in the pandemic. "It's become a place for zoom or business calls because it's quiet and private," he said.
Recognition…via Studiobricks Office Solutions
Another option is serenity. Companies such as VocalBooth, Studiobricks and WhisperRoom specialize in so-called acoustic booths. These are essentially pre-built, aquarium-like rooms that you can place in a room where you can work quietly. Originally intended as recording and practice rooms for musicians, acoustic booths were developed to also serve as meeting rooms in noisy industrial plants and as quiet rooms for technology companies to test various voice-activated or other sound-sensitive devices.
"The big change we're seeing at Covid is the people who call and say, 'I got stuck at home with my kids and I need a quiet place to work," said Freddie Gateley, vice president of sales at VocalBooth, Inc. Bend, Ore, "I can see how we could save some marriages."
Depending on the size and complexity, the cost of an acoustic booth ranges from $ 2,000 to $ 10,000 plus shipping. They arrive in pieces and can be put together over a weekend using tools available from your local Home Depot. The stands do not require building permits and can be disassembled and transported when you move – or eventually return to your real office. Who would have thought you would miss it so much?
Kate Murphy is the author of "You Don't Listen: What You Miss and Why It Matters."
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