Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Let’s face it – current trends don’t lie. It’s 2013 and the landscape of a typical office environment has changed in a big way – especially those fun, eccentric, Google-esque start-ups. Not only does every employee have at least two smart devices constantly buzzing, beeping and chirping – but you also have the growing trend of higher office densities in more open spaces. In other words, the cubicle walls are coming down and management is trading desks for “collaboration” and open space concept.
That’s all fine and dandy. Studies have shown that it works well; it’s economical and it increases productivity, so that’s why company’s are implementing it. But there’s one more number to the combination lock. One important, yet often overlooked aspect of creating a utopian office environment – and that would be the resurgence of a technology known as sound masking.
Sound masking not only sounds nifty – it actually IS nifty. What is it? In a nutshell, in an open office environment (though it can also be used for private offices), there’s constantly noise everywhere. This can make it difficult for employees to concentrate on what’s important, like, you know – their work. Deploying sound masking technology through strategically installed speakers, usually in the ceiling, (it can also be installed in raised access floors and even painted to match the office), pumps out a consistent “white noise” a couple decibels above speech level. This tactical noise modifies the acoustics of the room and allows you to have more private conversations, severely reduce noise distractions and all kinds of neat stuff which will be outlined below. The bottom line is that sound masking is here to stay, and the sooner you jump on board, the sooner it pays for itself. Studies have shown it time and time again.
Privacy matters. It’s true. No one likes having to look over their shoulder to see if the person 4 cubicles down can hear them or not. Not only that, but increased speech privacy leads to all sorts of amazing benefits for employees, such as increased concentration and focus. Were you aware that human speech is intelligible (and therefore, distracting) up to 50ft away? You can also use sound masking in a private office in order to increase office privacy and cut down on noise from surrounding offices. In many companies, this is a huge problem that sound masking can instantly solve.
Decreased stress. Did you know that noise can greatly contribute to stress? Whether it’s the rumble of 75 motorcycles going down your street, or an office full of employees blabbering on the phone and having shouting matches, noise increases stress quickly. Stress, especially employee stress, does horrible things to the company’s bottom line and future growth. Did you know that stressed employees make 40 percent fewer attempts at solving difficult problems? Imagine what this could mean for a new start-up?
Studies show it. ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) completed an important study back in 2005 that showed all kinds of very interesting stats regarding noise distractions. Some of the big ones are:
Increased productivity. The bottom line is that workers who deal with constant noise distractions all day long are much less likely to get as much work done as a worker in a sound masked environment. Again, this is because stress, distraction and concerns about speech privacy constantly chip away at employee focus, concentration and morale. In order to get the most bang for your buck, employee wise, they need to feel comfortable, stress-free and motivated. Too much noise kills it all.
The real bottom line. If you’ve read anything above, you’ll quickly realize just how devastating a noise-distraction-ridden work environment can be on employees. That also translates into lost productivity, which ultimately means lost sales and revenue. Another case study showed that after an office was masked for 6 months, the average increase in productivity or sales was a mind-blowing 19.8% per worker. This makes a massive impact on the fiscal year, obviously.
It really sounds like sound masking could be a secret weapon for office’s around the world. With statistics and case studies that prove the positive effects of decreasing noise distractions, and a variety of different sound masking systems to work with, it’s no wonder sound masking is making a huge comeback. Depending on what kind of a setup a company has, the system should theoretically pay for itself within a year’s time. That’s huge.