The Rise of Hybrid Work Drives Innovation in Office Soundproofing

By Franco Faraudo

When it comes to the impact of hybrid work on offices, most of the focus has been on the days when workers are absent. While offices sitting empty on certain days (usually Monday and Friday) create challenges, it isn’t the only issue posed by hybrid work schedules. Concentrating everyone in the office on the same days, generally at the same time, can lead to overcrowding and a significantly noisier environment. Increased lounge seating, informal meetings, and non-stop Zoom calls all contribute to a more disruptive hybrid office.

Office designers have tried to mitigate noise through design solutions, but the burden often falls on employees to use noise-canceling headphones. But, recent reports raise concerns about the potential dangers of these headphones, including tinnitus. David McAlpine, academic director of Macquarie University Hearing in Australia, explains, ‘If you stop putting sound into your ears… your brain overcompensates by turning up its internal gain.'”

Phone booths offer much-needed privacy in noisy offices and are often highly utilized. But, they have their limitations and shouldn’t become substitutes for collaborative workspaces. Isolating employees for long periods in small, enclosed spaces can be counterproductive. Research suggests that complete silence isn’t always optimal for productivity. A JLL study found that some workers struggle in overly quiet environments, with some offices even using soundscapes and white noise generators to create a baseline of noise.

Offices are turning to innovative soundproofing solutions to combat noise levels. An entire industry dedicated to acoustic materials has emerged, with the global acoustic panel market projected to surge from $11.7 billion in 2022 to over $21.9 billion by 2032. Even Starbucks recognizes the trend, investing in noise reduction by installing acoustic dampening baffles or foams in the ceilings of all new U.S. locations and over 1,000 existing stores.

Cutting-edge technology offers exciting new possibilities for quieter offices. MIT researchers have developed a revolutionary fabric that actively cancels out noise. This incredibly thin fabric contains a specialized fiber that vibrates when a voltage is applied. By precisely controlling these vibrations, the fabric emits sound waves that counteract and effectively ‘erase’ unwanted ambient noise. Scientists have already demonstrated impressive results, achieving up to 70% sound reduction with this innovative material.

Offices are increasingly hubs for collaboration, and with collaboration comes a natural increase in noise. Instead of shunning the office or relying solely on noise-canceling headphones, office designers and facilities managers should invest in noise-isolating and dampening technologies. While a busy office is inherently noisy, we can significantly reduce the negative impact of that noise, potentially encouraging employees to return to the office more frequently.

Flexible Office

Technology Is Helping Offices Get Ready for the Next Revolution of Work

The pandemic accelerated the need for adaptable offices as hybrid work became the norm. Uncertain about the future of work and potential disruptions like AI, businesses are creating flexible spaces with modular designs. This allows for easy reconfiguration in response to trends like increased technology needs and a desire for informal, collaborative environments.

How Office Owners Are Using Tech to Run In-House Flex Spaces

As the co-working industry has evolved, office owners are increasingly creating their own flex and co-working brands. To operate and manage these platforms, many owners are choosing to partner with software companies to build in-house apps that promise a seamless experience for users of the space. 

Will a ‘ClassPass’ for Co-Working Ever Catch On?

The co-working industry is growing, but it lacks a dominant all-in-one provider like ClassPass in the fitness industry. The high average transaction size for co-working memberships, frequent closure of co-working spaces, and a shift of focus away from dispersed workplaces for company employees have all presented challenges. While attempts have been made to create a co-working space aggregator, none have found the success of ClassPass. Will anyone ever make the model work?

Bytes

⛺️ Decamped: Storable, a supplier of various products and services for the self-storage industry, has acquired Newbook, a provider of property-management software for the hospitality industry, including RV parks and campgrounds.

🤖 Power hungry: JLL CEO Christian Ulbrich said demand is soaring for data centers as corporate America embraces AI, creating a rare bright spot in a commercial property market faced with rising office vacancies.

Thank you for reading the Propmodo Technology Newsletter! I’d love your feedback, ideas, and tips: franco@propmodo.com.

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