Sound masking is an audio system that produces an ambient sound, similar to that of airflow, that makes human speech less intelligible for those nearby. The noise emitted actually matches the frequencies of human speech, so it is less irritating than other frequencies such as those in white noise. It is therefore less noticeable and less distracting than other types of ambient noise. While there are many instances where this can be useful, let’s look at the value of sound masking in a corporate office space.
In a 2018 Udemy report on workplace distractions, employees reported being 50% less productive due to workplace distractions. Sound masking can help reduce distractions by significantly decreasing the noticeable sounds and voices around you. In today’s trendy open office formats, this is key to providing employees with a space in which they can work in a room that may be full of desks and people, but that will provide a barrier to the sounds that those people produce.
Employees may be speaking to customers and providing financial advice or collecting credit card information. In certain situations, such as healthcare, this privacy is even regulated by law making sound masking a valuable asset in keeping a client or patients’ information unintelligible to anyone nearby, and there by confidential. Additionally, meeting spaces don’t always provide the best barriers to sound with glass walls or paper-thin drywall that makes listening in a relatively easy task. When sensitive topics are being discussed, sound masking can provide the only sound barrier you’ll need.
Another benefit of sound masking is its ability to create a more comfortable and seemingly quieter environment. The distracting noises of an open office and the sometimes awkward silences that can result when people are nearby are eliminated with the constant, yet underwhelming volume that sound masking produces. Much like the sound of rain or waves, it can have a calming effect on those in a space providing a more relaxing atmosphere.
Office spaces are not occupied all week long and to ensure these systems are utilized only when needed, sound masking can be set on a schedule that turns on and off at certain times. There are also systems that can automatically increase or decrease volume in response to the amount of disturbing noise in a room.