There are many advantages of working remotely. You can sleep in longer, set your own schedule, and spend more time with your family. However, not having a controlled and quiet environment to work in is one of the biggest disadvantages of working from home. So today, we’re going to talk about ways to soundproof a home office.
Like everything else in life, remote work requires a trade-off. So while you won’t have to put up with an excruciating morning commute, you’ll have plenty of other things to worry about. If you have kids or roommates, they’ll do their best to distract you when you’re trying to focus.
What’s more, your neighbors will absolutely get into a fight as soon as you pick up the phone to make that important call. It’s Murphy’s law — anything that can go wrong, will. But don’t worry. As someone who’s spent their fair share of time working next to a toddler, I’ve got your back.
But before we talk about the ways you can improve your working environment at home, let’s discuss why working in a noisy environment simply isn’t a great long-term solution.
Working in a Noisy Environment
Whether you’re working in an office or from your apartment, noise is definitely not going to help you at all. You don’t have to be particularly sensitive to noise in order to find it distracting. In fact, hearing sounds that are coming from several different sources at once is enough to stress anyone out. In turn, that stress can translate into reduced productivity which can lead to real financial consequences.
As I’ve said in my article on the benefits of having a quiet home, silence makes it much easier to keep our focus. It also improves concentration and makes us feel more motivated about the work we’re doing. And as I’m sure you’ll agree, being able to self-motivate is a big part of working from home.
In the long run, nobody benefits from working in a noisy environment. Don’t believe the people who tell you that they do their best work with the TV on in the background. The constant humming of activity doesn’t make anyone more likely to do their jobs well.
Instead, business-owners should strive to keep their offices more serene. Even if the office is an open space, there are plenty of ways to soundproof cubicles.
Believe me, you don’t want to resort to using headphones. It’s all too tempting to turn that volume dial up to eleven in noisy environments. I know I’ve done it during my commute plenty of times.
But did you know that upping the volume on your headphones can hasten hearing loss? It’s true. That’s why our smartphones usually warn us not to max out the volume when we’re using our headphones.
In any case, sometimes we’re not even able to use headphones. For example, if you’re watching the kids while you’re working, you have to be able to hear your surroundings. So what are some other ways to deal with working in a noisy home?
A Guide to Soundproofing Your Home Office
Well, before we start, I ought to suggest first trying to minimize the noise at its source. If your issue is with your kids shouting in the next room, you can ask them to keep it down and hope that’s the end of it. However, some sources of noise, such as the sound of traffic under your window, can’t be stopped. Instead, I’m going to do my best to help you figure out a way to work around them.
This time around, I’ve decided to group my advice according to the issues you may be having. Since most people complain about having loud roommates or kids stomping about their home, let’s begin with finding ways to fix that.
First, Soundproof Your Home Office Door
If your kids are old enough to take care of themselves, they’re probably old enough to understand why you need to close yourself off while you work. Tell them to keep it down and close the door of your home office. However, if your door isn’t fortified, there’s no way that it’ll be able to keep any sound out.
Fortunately, I’ve been educating myself on how I can best approach the soundproofing of doors for a while now. But actually, I didn’t need to research all that much in order to find out that interior doors are pretty bad as far as their soundproofing capabilities go. Still, that’s not to say that you’re without options. In fact, you’ll be able to fend off most sounds as long as you keep in mind the thickness of the door and the air gaps around it.
Since I’ve already written about most of the ways in which you can soundproof a door, I’ll just keep it at a few tips here:
- Use acoustic caulk around the door frame.
- Apply weatherstripping tape where the door touches the door frame when it’s shut.
- Slide a draft stopper under the door.
Rather than installing a solid core door, you can thicken up the one you have with a combination of MLV, acoustic foam, and fabric. Or if you feel like physically thickening the door, you can add another layer of wood or fiberboard on both sides of it. Although, that method would take a considerable chunk of the day from you, so I recommend sticking to soundproof curtains.
In addition to helping you add some bulk to the door, you could also set up the curtains along the length of your walls. That way, they’ll also be protecting you against noises from the other rooms.
Create a Makeshift Office Cubicle at Home
On the other hand, many people don’t even have a dedicated room as their home office. If you’re one of those, you may find yourself working in the same room where your kids are playing. Or worse, you could be working in a room where the whole family congregates — for example, the living room. Well, as someone who’s had to figure out ways to concentrate in both of those scenarios, I’ve got a few tips that will definitely work.
If you have a toddler who’s determined to punch through the floor, I’ve had great results with memory foam carpets. This carpet I’ve found on Amazon is the perfect example of what I’m talking about. Let your kids try to hurl their wooden trains at the hardwood floors — you won’t hear a thing. Best of all, the product I’ve linked to comes in 10 different colors and 9 sizes as well.
Another way you can make any room more bearable to work in is if you fill it with soft furniture. Sofas and padded chairs will absorb most sounds, even kids’ screaming. And in addition to soft furniture, you can also put up some acoustic fabric panels. These ones from ATS Acoustics would look great in any area of your home.
Finally, if you want to go all out, you can also create a makeshift home office cubicle, right in your living room. I’ve recently reviewed several excellent acoustic partitions you could use. However, soundproof room divider curtains might work just as well, especially if you have a lot of space to work with.
Soundproof the Home Office Windows
Personally, one of the things I find the most distracting when I’m working from home are the sounds that are coming in from the street. But that’s just the trade-off for living in a busy street, I suppose. Well, if you don’t want to deal with distracting traffic noises, you’re going to have to put some work in on your windows and the exterior walls.
Although soundproof curtains are the route I’d usually go when soundproofing windows, I wouldn’t suggest using them in a home office. The reason why I’d avoid using either soundproof curtains or a window plug, in this case, is that I tend to do my best work when there’s daylight coming in through the windows. Thick curtains and window plugs obviously prevent that.
Well, if you want to keep your windows uncovered, you can use acoustic caulk, weatherstripping tape, and transparent window film to get the job done. While you’re plugging the holes around the window frame, you should also take care of the ones on your walls. Get all of the corners of the room, as well as any other obvious cracks in the walls as well.
Then, you can put weatherstripping tape on the windows just like you would on your doors. Finally, you can use a transparent, geometric window film to spruce up your office. Or you can even use transparent MLV if you think your windows could use a thicker material.
Soundproof the Office Ceiling and Reduce Noise from Upstairs
Alright, so maybe your upstairs neighbors aren’t actually dancing on top of your head every day. But it sure feels like it! If you can hear every clumsy move your neighbors make, I know your pain.
Trying to motivate yourself to work when you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder is bad enough. However, the temptation to just escape to a park before your work is done is even greater when you have someone tapping on your skull.
Well, there are a couple of ways you might deal with this issue. The first one I’d suggest involves talking through the matter with your neighbor. I’ve actually said as much in a previous article on noisy upstairs neighbors.
However, if there’s no helping the noise, there are some changes you can make to your own ceiling. For one, you can put up acoustic foam and hope for the best. Although, this won’t really do much to absorb the impact noise coming from upstairs.
One thing that will deal with that problem is constructing a dropped ceiling. As I’ve explained in my article on soundproofing without removing drywall, creating a dropped ceiling is the only way to deal with structure-borne noise. Separating your walls from the building structure with resilient channels works in much the same way.
However, a solution that would require less construction work is to attach thick soundproof insulation to your ceiling, then cover the whole thing with furring strips. I’d actually leave it at that if the furring strips are attractive enough on their own. A wooden ceiling would definitely add some style points to your home office. After all, a nicely decorated space is a great conduit for ideas and may even motivate you to do better work.
Alternative Ways to Get Rid of Noise When Working at Home
If all else fails, you can always try to mask unwanted noises with white noise machines or fans. The way white noise works is very interesting, as I’ve explained in my previous articles. Essentially, it disguises all other sounds because white noise itself covers all humanly heart frequencies.
It’s definitely a better company for work than music, especially music with lyrics. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found myself distracted by the words of a song on many occasions. So white noise, or an app that plays coffeehouse noises at a low volume, can be a great alternative.
However, if you’d rather have your music, white noise, or other sounds, playing directly in your ear, there are plenty of noise-canceling headphones you can try. But as always, you should be careful not to turn the volume up too much. And if you’d rather work in complete silence, you may want to consider wearing noise-canceling earplugs or earmuffs, like these ones from Pro For Sho.
Finally, once you’ve set up the rest of your home office to be as quiet as possible, you can also make sure to keep loud appliances out of the room. If you have an annoying ticking wall clock in the office, why not take it to the living room? Or better still, get rid of it altogether. There’s no reason to put up with those sounds when there are so many great non-ticking alternatives.
Also, if you don’t want to keep the window open because of the traffic noise, you can keep the air fresh with a quiet air purifier. And of course, if you’re working on a computer like most of us remote workers are, you can make sure that you’re working on one of the quietest keyboards on the market.
Keep the Noise out of Your Home Office
If you’ve done your best to keep the noise out of your home office, whether you have a designated room for it or not, the rest really isn’t up to you. Just remember:
- Deal with the doors and windows first.
- Plug any air gaps with acoustic sealant and weatherstripping tape.
- Add thickness to walls and doors with furniture and soundproof materials.
- Use only quiet products inside your home office.
If nothing else, you can always wear earplugs or earmuffs. But hopefully, the steps we’ve discussed today will be enough to keep the worst of the noise out. So there you have it, some peace and quiet at long last! And now that your productivity has returned, all that’s left to do is get to work — good luck!