9 Tips for Soundproofing an Office Cubicle
Soundproofing an office cubicle can be a major stress reliever. Especially if you’re forced to listen to your coworkers gossiping about Susie’s divorce or the boss’s latest mistress. Actually, those are pretty fun topics. But you get the point; creating a silent working environment can be a major asset to getting things done faster. And chilling out in fashion as well. So how can you soundproof your office cubicle?
To soundproof an office cubicle you can first increase its height with cubicle wall extenders. You should also increase the density of the walls and the door with soundproofing foam panels. If your cubicle doesn’t have a door, either install one or get noise blocking curtains to cover the gap. Using noise-cancelling headphones and a white noise machine can also be helpful.
Having said that, here’s a more detailed explanation with more tips and products you can use:
1. Increase the height of the cubicle walls
This is an option only for cubicles that don’t have a ceiling.
By increasing the height of the walls you will also block a lot of the noise coming from above the cubicle.
To do that, you can use two different methods:
- attach cubicle wall extenders (link to Amazon) on top of the cubicle walls
- hang noise-blocking curtains from the ceiling
The wall extenders are usually more convenient and they’re really easy to install.
But if you can hang the curtains, they will absorb more sound because they cover a larger area and because they’re pretty thick and designed for sound absorption.
2. Hang acoustic panels on the walls and the door of the cubicle
Acoustic panels are the best option when it comes to minimizing airborne noise. They can drastically cut down the chatter noise that is a typical daily occurrence in offices. And you can do anything you want without being heard by others.
However, before buying panels, be sure that those panels won’t take up the little space that you have in your cubicle. If you have a tiny cubicle, you don’t want to surround yourself with 2-4 inch thick panels.
If you have a tiny cubicle, you can hang the panels on the outside. But before you do that, make sure that it’s okay with the other staffers. You can use the same panels on the ceiling as well.
I don’t recommend gluing the panels directly on any surface. Using hanging strips is a much better option. You take 2 or 3 strips and attach them to the back of the panel and then you place it on the desired surface. These will hold just as well as if you were using an adhesive, but they won’t damage the surface at all. You can remove the panels later on much easier as well.
With all of this in mind, I’ve made a detailed buying guide for various soundproof panels and the best way to hang them without damaging the walls. You can read it by clicking here.
3. Attach a door to your cubicle or cover the gap with noise blocking curtains
The more open space there is between you and your surroundings, the more noise you will have to deal with. It’s only logical to enclose yourself as much as possible to prevent this noise.
First of all, if you don’t have a door, definitely get one. You can order a custom made door in places like Home Depot that will fit in perfectly. Make sure that the door you order is a solid core door, not a hollow one.
If your cubicle has a hollow and/or thin door already, you can replace it or soundproof it using one or two materials. In that case, I suggest you check out my guide on how to soundproof a hollow door.
Or if your cubicle is really open, and you’d have to fit in 3 doors in that space, you can use noise-blocking curtains instead. Make sure that the curtains are long and wide enough to match the height of the cubicle walls.
Thick curtains like the ones in the picture above are pretty affordable and they reduce noise pretty well. You can check out the price and over 4000 customer reviews on Amazon by clicking here.
4. Seal any small cracks and gaps you can find
What do I mean by cracks and gaps? Well, any small open spaces in the cubicle walls or between the door and the door frame. Any open space needs to be sealed if you really want to reduce the noise.
For these small gaps, I usually use the super cheap soundproofing weatherstrip tape. You can tape the door frame where the door and the frame are supposed to meet. If after you close the door there is no more space between it and the door frame, you did a good job. If not, tape it once more until you get there.
Also, if you use acoustic panels and have some leftovers, you can cut those down to size and stuff them in small gaps as well.
For the gap between the door and the floor, attach a simple door sweep on the door.
5. Use noise-cancelling headphones
Perhaps the noise you’re dealing with is not too bad. Or it comes in short bursts. Your workplace is pretty quiet for hours and then a party of chatting machines arrives and makes you want to pick up that baseball bat you promised to use only in self-defense.
In that case noise-cancelling headphones can be extremely helpful. When the chatter boxes arrive, cover your ears with these special headphones and you can be willfully ignorant of the whole situation. I made a review of the best noise-cancelling headphones under $50 so feel free to check them out.
However, if the noise is a constant problem then headphones are probably not the best solution. Unless you can wear them all the time. But most people get tired of wearing them after 2-3 hours and need to take a break.
So if the noise is persistent all day long, you should still upgrade your cubicle with a few soundproofing methods mentioned above.
6. Use a white noise machine
Many people use white noise machines in offices to neutralize the chaotic noise in their environment. Even more people use it for meditation. White noise is a constant sound that creates relaxation when used in the background.
The problem with regular noise you’re trying to neutralize is that it’s irregular and chaotic. It’s not a straight line. It has hills and valleys, and each outbreak from Susie, the high-pitched copywriter working in the cubicle next to you produces a stress reaction in your body, and keeps you on the edge.
White noise IS a straight line. Because of its consistency, it produces a soothing flow effect within the brain. Just listen to this video for a while and you’ll see what I mean:
Feeling more relaxed already? Good!
You can use a white noise machine to get super-quality sound while you’re working in your office. The Marpac Dohm is the most popular white noise machine ever and it’s cool design is especially suited for office spaces. You can check out the price and over 7000 customer reviews on Amazon by clicking here.
7. Soundproof the floor (optional)
Soundproofing the floor is needed only if the noise is coming from below the cubicle or you don’t want the noise from your cubicle to be heard by people downstairs.
If that’s really the case, then make sure to check out my article on floor soundproofing to get some ideas.
If you just want to prevent the noise of your own footsteps, a thick carpet will do it.
8. Talk to your coworkers about this problem
If you haven’t done this already it might be worth a try. Be straightforward with your coworkers about the noise and ask them to be more quiet.
Some of the noise is necessary, but some could be prevented by common decency:
- use headphones to listen to music
- walk over to the other person instead of talking over cubicles
- set cell phones and smartphones to low volume or mute
- ask them not to use speakerphones if they don’t have to
- ask them to use headphones with microphones when speaking on the phone
9. Switch to a different cubicle
Maybe you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If your work requires more silent time than the work people around you are doing, moving to a different cubicle could be another solution.
If you’re the manager, having the sales people in a different location than the programmers for example would also be a logical thing to do. Some people don’t mind the noise – they thrive on it!
A few logistical adjustments can make a world of difference. But if you tried doing this or you know that no one would take your complaints too seriously, upgrading your cubicle into a soundproof bunker is the best solution.
I hope the tips in this article seem reasonable to you, and that you’ll use them to your advantage.
If you have some additional tips for struggling cubicle residents, please leave them in the comment section below. – Luka Baron