It seems that no one can get office design right. Cubicles are soul crushing. Open offices are distracting. And just giving people their own offices? Well, that’s just too expensive (or so say many companies).
So how do you keep your employees sane while minimizing expensive construction and furniture? Swedish furniture designers Glimakra have one possible solution. Sabine, their new line of sound-absorbing, mobile storage cabinets straddles the line between open office and cubicle design. Like cubicles, the muted, sleek cabinets come in different sizes and shapes, so they can be pushed together to form smaller spaces, but they could just as easily frame a room.
“The need is well defined–open floor plans in general and activity-based workplaces in particular, need to be supplemented with specific products to achieve a functional acoustic environment,” the product’s designers Johan Kauppi and Bertil Harström said. “The pressed felt shells on the outside of the furniture interact with the slotted body in a way that creates a smooth and good sound absorption across a wide frequency range from 125 hertz to 4000 hertz. The sound absorption is actually considerable even at very low frequencies, say 63 hertz.”
It’s true that working in crowded spaces can cause both distraction and an uncomfortable lack of privacy. Sound absorbing furniture can address both issues. Quite a few designers have dabbled in sound dampening partitions recently, and cubicle moguls Herman Miller have an entire line of what they call “sound masking” office furniture. Can these products really make a difference in employees’ quality of life? We don’t have the answer, but if they do work, we’d at least appreciate the quiet.