Turn down the volume. Get more done.
Over the past few years as workstation heights have decreased, the number of distractions keeping your mind off your work has increased.
Be it your neighbour’s phone call, the teammates chatting as they work together on a project or just the everyday sounds of people going about their work, background distractions have become more noticeable than ever.
There are a variety of ways you can reduce background noise in your office and increase auditory privacy but one of the most effective solutions to reduce auditory distraction is to install a sound masking system. These systems are designed to introduce low-level noises that subtly raise the ambient sound level; rendering office and outdoor noise less noticeable and speech virtually unintelligible.
How does a sound masking system work?
An electronic sound masking system works not by eliminating sound but by introducing a continuous pink noise that will mask or offset the sound of voices, music, or nearby traffic. The system itself is usually installed in a centralized and easy to access location while specialized speakers are dispersed around your office to evenly distribute the sound to each workstation, office and collaboration area.
Think of it as a surround sound stereo system with your stereo located in your TV cabinet and each speaker positioned to direct sound from a different direction.
This means that all across your space, instead of hearing distinct and distracting noises, you hear only a muffled blur of indistinct background sound, no different than your office’s ventilation system.
Once installed, it is critical to keep your system tuned. Be sure to ask your provider how their systems are tuned, some systems are able to automatically adjust themselves, while others require a professional to visit your office to manually tune the system (which can be quite expensive). Tuning your system is what ensures that it is producing sound at the exact frequency necessary to mask sound in your unique office environment. You may think that an office is an office and a chatty neighbour is a chatty neighbour but many factors can actually impact the frequency of sound in your space. A few examples include:
- The size and shape of your office (small narrow halls vs a large wide-open space)
- What your ceiling is made of (plaster vs fibre drop-ceiling tiles)
- The configuration of your workstations (short-panelled systems furniture vs floor-to-ceiling private offices)
- What kind of walls are prevalent in your space (brick vs drywall vs glass vs upholstered panels)
Many of our customers find the concept of introducing more sound to offset existing noise a strange one. However, because the sound produced by the system is a low and steady constant, you will find it quickly fade from notice. After all, when was the last time you actually “heard” the office heating system unless it was kicking on for the first cold snap of the year?
What are the benefits of using a sound masking system?
- Boost productivity – Studies show productivity decreases by as much as 40 percent due to noise and distractions, and distracted workers are also more likely to make mistakes.
- Enhance security and confidentiality – Speech privacy is enhanced by making what is being said indistinguishable.
- Improve office comfort – Sound masking digitally creates sounds that are designed to match the frequencies of human speech and be pleasing to our ears. That sound flows throughout the space and blends into the natural background.
- Increase employee well-being – In one UK survey, 44 percent of workers said noise at work made them stressed, and more than half said they were interrupted by noise distractions more than five times a day.
Most importantly, no longer will your coworkers’ conversation tempt you to eavesdrop rather than finish your work for the day; instead, they are just a muffled part of the office backdrop.
What are the drawbacks of a sound masking system?
First and foremost among the problems with a sound masking system is that it will never completely eliminate background noise. It drastically reduces how many distracting sounds are bouncing around within your office but no system will be able to render your office totally silent.
Nor can sound masking systems eliminate particularly sudden or loud sounds. Even the best system is no match for car alarms, sirens or a coworker who is unable to refrain from yelling into their phone.
Finally, sound masking systems are a series of speakers run throughout your ceiling so if you are looking to retrofit a sound masking system into your current office you will need to ensure you have the ability to run wiring throughout your ceiling.
How much does a sound masking system cost?
A sound masking system can vary in price depending on the layout of your facility and the difficulty of installation, but we find a decent average when working with our supplier, Softdb, is $3 to $6 per square foot.
You won’t normally install sound masking in stairwells, bathrooms, break rooms and mechanical rooms so be sure to only use actual office space when estimating the budget for your environment.
Let’s look at an example office that needs to install sound masking for 6,000 square feet of space. At the price of $3 to $6 per foot, that means the cost will likely fall between $18,000 and $36,000 for the project.
Who is right for a sound masking system… and who isn’t?
Installing a sound masking system will noticeably reduce the noise level and improve auditory privacy in most offices. If your office uses an open-style layout, has high ceilings or large hard surfaces that reflect sound you will especially find a sound masking system helpful. If your team regularly has confidential conversations (such as in a legal firm), the added privacy may make it worth adding a sound masking system on its own.
That being said, no, a sound masking system isn’t for everyone. If only a handful of people work in your space or your office is divided with floor-to-ceiling walls between most workstations, a sound masking system will likely have little effect on the ambient background noise of your work area.
Do you want our advice if a sound masking system is right for your space?
So you have done your homework and think a sound masking system just might be the solution you have been looking for, but how do you know if it is right for you and your space?
This is where we come in. We have been installing sound masking systems in our customers’ offices for almost three decades. Our team of experts has evaluated hundreds of unique spaces and is armed with the experience to help you judge if this is the right investment for your business. Request a free consultation with one of our workplace experts today!