How to reduce noise in your home office

How to reduce noise in your home office

Working from home has its advantages. You can’t beat that commute time! But when your dog is barking, your kids are fighting, and you’re distracted by the towering pile of laundry that still needs to be folded, it can be tough to stay focused on work. In fact, in a recent survey, 53 percent of newly remote workers said they had difficulty separating their work and personal lives.

Having a dedicated home office can help employees focus on work. Let’s face it, it’s tough not to be distracted when working from the kitchen table (Hello, cake?). But even if you have the space for a home office, it’s only really helpful if you can block out the noise, stress, and interruptions of home life. Research shows what those of us who work from home already intuitively know: Frequent interruptions can significantly increase stress.

In this article, you’ll find tips to help you reduce noise in your home office. We’ll also suggest ways that employers can chip in to make your home office a little less stressful and a little more productive.

How to reduce noise in your home office

Soundproof your home office

In your home office, when you can hear your kids arguing over a Lego piece five feet away, it’s tough to stay on task. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to reduce outside noise.

Switch from a hollow-core door to a solid-core door.

Many homes are outfitted with hollow-core doors because they’re cheaper. But with nothing but air between the panels, it’s easy for sound to seep through. A solid-core wood door is filled with a combination of wood and synthetic wood composites. This gives it added sound insulation without skyrocketing the price—you can generally find one for under $100.

Install a door sweep.

Even if you have a solid door, it won’t do much good if you have a “kids spying through the bottom of the door”-level gap between door and floor. You can seal this space with a sweep, or door seal. You can also seal up the sides and tops of the door with some weatherstripping to further reduce sound.

Put up canvas art or acoustic panels.

Bare walls cause sound to echo. Make your office look snazzy and dampen noise and echo by putting up canvas art or colorful acoustic panels. You can find beautiful art from classic paintings to inspirational sayings, or you can print out your favorite family photos on canvas so you can see your kiddos even if you can no longer hear them.

You can further dampen sound by installing acoustic panels. These are the egg carton-shaped foam sidings that you may have seen in pictures of recording studios. Don’t worry: The egg carton look is generally covered with a layer of cloth, allowing you to achieve a clean office look while reducing noise.

Decorate with soft wall hangings.

Do you have a favorite quilt or a baby blanket that is close to your heart? Rather than put it in storage, hang it on your office wall! A thick blanket works best for this. If your favorite quilt is thin, you can add a moving blanket or additional padding behind it to increase the sound absorption.

Get a rug.

Bare floors reflect sound rather than absorb it. When sound reflects, it echoes or creates a reverberating sound that can be distracting. With a rug, those sound waves get absorbed, dulling noise. If wall-to-wall carpeting isn’t in your budget, invest in a few throw rugs. Not only will it improve the sound quality in your office, but with so many throw rugs to choose from, it will add a touch of design to your space.

Add upholstered furniture.

Bare furniture gives your office a clean look. But it also does little to absorb sound. Upholstered chairs, particularly of the overstuffed variety, can help reduce echo and noise. If a complete office furniture remodel is not in your budget, invest instead in some throw pillows and blankets.

Install soundproof curtains.

When installed on your windows, soundproof curtains can significantly reduce outside noise. But you don’t need to limit curtains to windows. Some soundproof curtains can also be used as room dividers, allowing you to neatly divide your office space and lower ambient noise from your neighboring space.

Replace old windows.

Some old windows have just one pane of glass, whereas newer windows can be double or even triple paned. Particularly if you are near a busy street or otherwise hear a lot of traffic noise, upgrading your windows can cut out a lot of excess noise.

If you can’t splurge for brand new windows, consider instead investing in window inserts. Window inserts can block up to 70 percent of outdoor noise.

Seal any holes in the walls.

A wall between rooms obviously blocks sound, but when there are holes in the wall, sounds from the other room can more easily travel through. Most often these holes are near outlets or ducts. Seal up holes with all-purpose caulk to reduce outside noise.

Soundproof the air vents.

Sounds from nearby rooms can travel through vents, potentially undermining all your soundproofing efforts. You can reduce noise coming through air vents with acoustic foam. If the vent is no longer needed, you can fully block it by installing a cover.

How to reduce noise in your home office

Reduce or escape noise distractions

You may not have the budget to invest in new windows. Or you may not have the time to fully soundproof your office. There are a number of quicker solutions that can get you some peace and quiet.

Get a “do not disturb” sign.

Model your kids’ “KEEP OUT!” sign and get a “Do Not Disturb” sign for your office. Better yet, invite your kids to make one for you. Explain the rules: When the sign is on your door, you can’t be disturbed.

Get a white noise machine.

By emitting a continuous stream of soothing sounds, such as ocean waves or rain, a white noise machine covers up distracting noises that can make it hard to focus. This is an affordable option for noise reduction, with many white noise machines available for under $50.

Invest in noise-canceling headphones.

Noise-canceling headphones can help keep you on task by filtering out unwanted noise. They can also help avoid those embarrassing Zoom moments when your dog is barking, the oven timer goes off, and your heater kicks on simultaneously. Make sure you invest in a pair of headphones that’s comfortable, has good noise-reduction capabilities, and is a good headset for making calls.

Relocate your workspace to a quieter room.

Back when office workers all thought working from home would last for two weeks, working from the kitchen counter was fine. But with remote working continuing for a significant part of the workforce, you may need to find to a less-trafficked space. Consider blocking off a portion of your bedroom, upgrading part of your basement, or finding a seldom-used area to set up your workspace.

Consider renting a coworking space.

If your home does not have a quieter room, or your children/dog/roommate/washing machine are too distracting no matter how large your home is, consider renting a coworking space. Different companies offer a variety of deals, from drop-ins per day, to office sharing, to a dedicated desk.

Bring your laptop to a public library.

If you do not have sensitive client information and your IT team okays it, consider bringing your laptop to a public library to work. They are quiet, have free Wi-Fi, and  smell like books. If that’s not quite your scene, or you need more caffeine, head to a local coffee shop or café instead.

How to reduce noise in your home office

Look to your employer for additional help in noise reduction

Creating or finding a quiet space to work outside of the office comes with costs. Here are perks that some employers are offering their remote employees. If your office does not offer these, consider bringing it up to your boss or to human resources.

Offer a stipend for home-office renovations or furnishings.

Furniture doesn’t upholster itself. Some employers will offer a stipend to help defray the costs of making their employees’ home offices less distracting.

Reimburse employees for necessary noise-reducing items.

Items like noise-canceling headphones benefit not just the employee wearing them, but everyone the employee interacts with in online meetings and calls by filtering out distracting background noise. Consider asking your employer whether they would reimburse you for this and other necessary noise-reducing items.

Pay for memberships to a coworking space.

When you’re on a tight deadline or you really need to buckle down and concentrate, being interrupted can be incredibly disruptive and stressful. These distractions can affect your work—and your mental health. Consider requesting a stipend in order to pay for a coworking space so you can have a distraction-free place to work when you need it.

Conclusion

Working from home has its benefits… and its costs. Sound-proofing your home and finding ways to reduce the distractions can go a long way toward improving your work and your stress level.

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How to reduce noise in your home office