Work in a Noisy Office? Try a White Noise Machine

If your team works in a bustling call center, typing away at an informal open-office setup, or jumping from patient to patient in a hectic clinic, they already know what it means to block out distractions. In fact, they’ve probably gotten so good at ignoring the impromptu discussions and calls happening all around them, they could practically add it to the “Skills” section of their resume. Still, all that outside noise is probably taking a toll on employee focus, not to mention client privacy. How are your employees supposed to navigate a patient through a sticky health situation or discuss household finances with a bank customer if everyone can hear what’s being said?

Of course, you and your team aren’t doomed to a life of studiously ignoring outside interruptions. White noise machines — also known as sound masking systems — systematically reduce transient noises while making private conversations more private. And that can add up to what you’ve always dreamed about: an office where you can hear your own thoughts for a change!

White Noise Benefits Your Productivity and Your Privacy

Open-plan offices are on the rise, at the sake of workers’ focus and privacy. Yes, these designs make it easier to gather the troops for an informal stand-up, but they’re also hard on employee concentration. White noise systems can help by providing:

  • Improved focus and productivity. Collaborative workplaces definitely achieve results, but not when all that collaboration is crowding out your staff’s ability to focus. And experts say that human speech is the most distracting kind of background noise, since we’re primed to listen to conversations. Sound masking muffles speech patterns to make conversations indistinguishable to those nearby.
  • Client/patient privacy. One of the chief benefits of white noise is its ability to obscure speech — so no one can snoop on that important patient call. For this reason, sound masking systems are in high demand at healthcare clinics, hospitals, psychotherapists’ offices or anywhere patient-provider confidentiality is a must.
  • Protected sensitive information. Even if your industry isn’t covered by HIPAA, it’s still nice to have a private conversation every once in a while. For confidential or sensitive discussions, a white noise machine masks important details — just in case the office gossip happens to be walking by!
  • Positive health impacts. After studying how office noise affects workers, researchers concluded that it tends to lower motivation and may influence employees’ ability to recall important details. You can easily understand how that translates into lost productivity, but it also means an unhappy workforce.

The Science Behind Sound Masking

Sound masking doesn’t block out noise so much as it covers it up. Discreet speakers pipe unobtrusive, continuous sound into the office space and over the comings and goings of the office. It all works thanks to a trick of the human mind that allows us to “tune out” steady, continuous noise. Just as you can fall asleep with rain pelting the roof or work with a fan humming in the distance, our brains naturally acclimate to predictable background noise. White noise is designed to mimic these easy-to-ignore, steady sounds.

Other office sounds, meanwhile — someone chatting away at the desk next to you, a noisy coworker stomping by — are categorized as transient noise. Your mind is attuned to react to sensory changes like these, which is why it becomes activated when you hear, say, snippets of a conversation going on across the room. That was a key adaptive trait when a day’s work consisted of hunting and gathering to stay alive, but it doesn’t help you very much when you don’t have to worry about hungry lions prowling around.

Luckily, we humans are nothing if not inventive, which is where white noise systems come in. Such systems are specifically designed with an auditory spectrum that makes human speech indistinguishable to all but the closest listeners. In practice, it sounds a lot like airflow, and it’s consistent enough to ignore for long periods of time. It actually muffles those transient noises from above, making them sound a lot more like unobtrusive, steady noise. And that means you can get a lot more work done!

Designing Your Office Sound Masking System

Industrial sound masking is more than just a white noise machine in the corner. It’s a full system of expertly positioned speakers installed above suspended ceilings, below raised access floors and in open structures — or anywhere that will give you good coverage without making their presence known.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to do the planning on your own. Taylored Systems engineers and representatives can lead you through a selection of different offerings from various manufacturers and build a sound masking system that works for your business. We’ll get you the volume and controls you need and can even set up your system to double as a paging mechanism! Sounds good, right?