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Sound Masking

Sound Masking is a very important element in today’s safe and legal workplace.

The ABC’s of Sound Masking

When designing an optimal acoustic environment, consultants typically consider a variety of elements referred to as the ABC’s of acoustic design. In an ideal environment, the design elements would Absorb, Block and Cover sound. Consultants balance these elements to reduce conversational distractions while designing an open, aesthetically pleasing office.

What is Sound Masking?

Sound masking is the “cover” portion of the equation. Sound masking is the addition of an unobtrusive background sound, similar to airflow, to reduce the intelligibility of human speech and reduce distractions. The resulting environment leads to greater productivity and increased privacy and comfort.

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The Statistics

Increased Privacy
In a laboratory study between 2006 and 2008, researchers found that the addition of sound masking increased speech privacy from 35% to 90%.

Increased Performance
Researchers found that study participants had a nearly 10% improvement in their ability to recollect a series of numbers and words after the addition of sound masking.

Increased Productivity
In a 2008 survey, researchers found that workers lost an average of 21.5 minutes each day to conversational distractions.

Increased comfort
48% of survey respondents reported that conversational distractions were the leading cause of workplace discomfort.

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Five Reasons Your Office Needs Sound Masking

1)  Your private office got bull-dozed.   In the course of my day I hear from facility managers and executives that private offices are being replaced with open office space to boost collaboration.  Well, that’s great, unless you actually wanted to have a private conversation with vendors, a team member, or your spouse.  Today it’s a reality that many employees, regardless of seniority, will often not have a truly private office to call home.

2)  Your cubicle walls are crumbling down.  Seven foot cubicle walls are also going the way of the Hummer and Crumbs (I still love cupcakes).   In-fashion now, ultra-low partitions, as low as 6 inches on “benches” are replacing the traditional cubicle, which, as much as we hated it, at least attempted to absorb your co-workers conversation about his trip to Amsterdam.

3) Glass and walls aren’t built the way they used to be.   Got an all-glass conference room?  It looks great in your new company brochure, but unfortunately conversations seep over, through, and under most new glass conference room walls which are typically not sealed effectively and provide zero sound absorption.   Even drywalls in most conference rooms, made from lighter weight materials and with modular construction, are more for visual privacy then speech privacy.

4) Your team is growing, but your office isn’t.  I’ve heard from real estate executives, office admins, and facility managers that companies in 2014 are fitting about 20% to 30% more employees in their office spaces, without expanding their square footage.   While that’s good news for the real estate budget ,more people in a smaller space = more conversations in a smaller space.

5) You just want some peace.  Sound masking is obviously not a cure-all, but it has been proven in many research studies to reduce noise distractions and protect speech privacy, which boosts productivity and general acoustic comfort.  It’s an affordable and pretty much invisible solution to help workers feel more comfortable in the office, without prohibiting collaboration or communications.

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