Soundproofing a cubicle can be a tricky thing to accomplish since it’s an open space.
This means that you won’t be able to properly soundproof it since no matter what you do, what materials you use, etc. there will always be a lot of room for sound to either enter or leave the cubicle.
However, there are a couple things you can do to at least lower the amount of noise that is able to reach you, making it more manageable.
I will go over all the important steps you should follow, as well as give some tips on how you can lower the perceived noise inside the cubicle without actually lowering it.
Step 1: Increase the Height of the Cubicle Walls
This one is a bit complicated since you may not have permission to do it, but it will definitely help with the reduction of unwanted noise.
You would need to speak to your employer about this, if he/she can invest in this or if they at least give you permission to do it.
You have two options;
One: Get similar wood to the one of your cubicle and screw it onto it. Just make sure that there are no gaps left unsealed.
Using Medium Density Fiberboard can also work for this.
To properly seal these gaps, you should use acoustic caulk.
Two: Invest in an absorbing desk divider like this one.
These are easy to install, and they don’t damage the cubicle walls which means that they can be installed and removed as needed.
Step 2: Add Acoustic Treatment to the Cubicle Walls
Adding acoustic panels or acoustic foam to the cubicle walls won’t really lower the noise that is allowed inside the cubicle, but it will make it die out a lot quicker since the soundwaves can’t bounce around it as easily.
What this will do is lower the overall noise inside the cubicle, which is the point!
These are the acoustic foam panels that I recommend since they are cheap and effective.
Foam panels will give your cubicle a very distinctive and even artistic look.
If you want better looking acoustic panels, then I would recommend these ones. They are also a bit better at deadening the sound, but they cost a bit more.
Finally, you could make them yourself, or you could hang some paintings and make them sound absorbent.
Here’s a video by DIY Perks where he goes into detail of how to make the panels yourself.
To make your paintings/artwork sound absorbent, simply follow the same steps, but you won’t need to make the frame yourself since the paintings already got one.
Step 3: Purchase a Thick Rug
Rugs do a great job at absorbing sound mainly because they are made out of a thick and dense material, which is excellent for sound absorption.
In a lot of offices, the cubicle floor may already be carpeted, but if it isn’t then you should absolutely install a carpet like this one.
Another option is to place a rug pad under the already existing rug, since the rug pad will provide a bit of extra absorption.
Step 4: Seal the Gaps and Holes
Even though a cubicle is open at the top and has an entryway, if there are gaps and holes where the panels of the cubicle meet then any noise generated outside of the cubicle, especially near those gaps, will have no trouble at all getting in.
There is a really simple fix for this which is applying some acoustic caulk where the walls of the cubicle meet. This way you will be completely sealing the joints and sound will have a harder time reaching you.
Step 5: Invest in a White Noise Machine
White noise machines are normally used to help people sleep, but they can still work in a cubicle environment.
Why does a white noise machine help?
What a white noise machine does is create a reasonable level of white noise which will mask all of the noises in your surroundings, effectively making them feel quieter.
White noise machines do nothing to block sound, they only serve to mask it and to make you perceive it less.
It’s like turning on a fan at night; since the fan makes a constant noise you won’t be startled by any outside/unusual noise because you won’t be able to hear it as much.
Just make sure that you aren’t annoying your co-workers with it. If you feel like this might happen, then I’d recommend the next option…
Step 6: Invest in noise cancelling Headphones
Investing in good over-the-ear closed back- or noise cancelling headphones can be a lifesaver in an office environment.
Headphones are great mainly because you won’t be doing anything that might annoy your co-workers. Sure, they might need to yell at you from time to time in order to get you to hear them, but that’s about it.
The Srhythm noise cancelling headphones should provide you great audio cancellation at a very affordable price.
The great thing about these headphones is that you can wear them for hours without getting fatigued.
I have owned many different headphones and some of them where impossible to wear for more than one or two hours since the clamping force was way too strong.
These ones are a definite recommendation.
Step 7: Talk to Human Resources
Sometimes no matter what you do you just won’t be able to minimize the noise as much as you’d like but, since it’s an office environment, it shouldn’t hurt to take a trip down to HR and ask them to talk to the team about Cubicle Etiquette since this could benefit everyone.
There should be no reason for anyone to know that it was you who suggested this and since some people can be way to loud and disruptive, everyone in the office should benefit.
If you are having a hard time getting your work done because of unwanted and distracting noises, then make sure to follow the steps in this guide.
It doesn’t take much time to do it and the results may be exactly what you need!