Sound Masking and Privacy Solutions for Open Office Layouts


Sound Masking and Privacy Solutions for Open Office Layouts 

The workplace has undergone a dramatic change over the past few decades. No longer are offices laid out with rows and rows of identical workspaces reminiscent of the Levittown developments of the post-World War II era. Instead, the walls have been torn down and those cubicle farms have been replaced by open-office floor plans, with everyone occupying a common space.

The open office concept has proven so popular that one study estimates that 70% of all office space is of the open type. Proponents of open offices claim the concept would encourage collaboration and communication between employees in addition to being cost-effective for businesses.

Still, open office floor plans tend to draw a few major complaints. It’s difficult to have a private conversation when your co-workers are an arm’s length away, and the amount of background noise can be a major distraction, especially if you’re on an important call. These flaws have some business owners looking at other layouts suited for a hybrid office.

However, one way to manage those issues is by employing open office sound masking and privacy solutions.

Acheiving open office privacy with sound masking

Sound masking solutions work by reducing what’s known as the “radius of distraction,” or the distance at which you can make out the conversations of others. If your co-workers’ conversations are intelligible when they’re 60 feet away, then the radius of distraction is at least 60 feet.

Similar to white noise, commercial office sound masking systems work by introducing ambient noise that reduces the radius of distraction. Although it seems counterintuitive, the added noise is engineered to approximate the frequency of human speech. As a result, nearby conversations are less intelligible, and as a result less distracting.women talking on the phone and other workers working in an open office.

Because a sound masking system helps stop your brain from tuning in to what others are saying, you simply don’t pay attention to those conversations. Sound masking doesn’t eliminate the sounds of others’ conversations, it simply makes them less noticeable by reducing the radius of distraction.

Compare it to the sound of an air conditioning system in an office or the traffic noise from the street outside your window. Although if you focus your attention on the sound, you can hear it, but normal workday distractions mean you just don’t notice it.

Such open office noise solutions aren’t just for open workspaces, either. Places where confidentiality is critical, such as a law office or health care facility, are candidates for sound masking, as are noisy spaces such as casinos and restaurants.  

Maintaining privacy in an open office environment

Reducing the distractions caused by the conversations of others isn’t the only reason to consider a sound masking solution. These can serve as open office privacy solutions as well.

Consider, for example, an account manager in an open office working to secure a major deal with a top client. It’s a good bet they’d prefer the details of that deal to not become the topic of a water-cooler discussion.

Or let’s say someone in the office is having a personal conversation on the phone during their lunch break. Depending on the nature of the conversation, they may not want their co-workers listening in.

And such solutions aren’t just for open offices, either. Cubicle partitions rarely reach the ceiling, and sound can still travel through walls. Managers would likely prefer that employee evaluations, payroll discussions, or disciplinary actions remain within the confines of their office and not overhead by anyone who happens to be strolling by. A sound masking and speech privacy system can be a cost-effective solution for nearly any environment.

Best sound masking solution for open office layouts

men and women working in an open office.Yamaha Unified Communications recently introduced its VSP-2 Speech Privacy System. The VSP-2 increases the background noise level high enough to mask nearby conversations and prevent accidental listening in small open work areas, conference rooms, or executive offices while creating a relaxing acoustic environment free from distractions.

The tabletop control unit connects to speakers via wire, and includes three easily adjustable sound elements:

  • Speech Sound Masker: Made from elements of a human voice

  • Environmental Sound: Forest Sound, Murmuring Brook, Urban Clatter, Room Air Conditioner

  • Sound Effect: Guitar, Piano, Music box, Digital Device

The VSP2 provides up to 65% higher masking performance at the same sound level as other conventional sound masking methods, creating a relaxing acoustic environment free from distractions. The speakers can be installed in ceiling tiles, meaning they don’t take up any space.

Best microphones for open office environments

To help round out a sound masking and speech privacy solution, Yamaha UC also offers a variety of microphone systems designed to deliver superior performance in noisy environments, reducing the need for those on videoconference sessions at their desk to speak in an excessively loud voice to be heard. When it comes to choosing the best microphone for loud environments, Yamaha UC has what you need.

Maintaining speech privacy and reducing noise distractions is critical in today’s open office, and having the best microphone for noisy environments is the final piece of the puzzle. If you want more information about how Yamaha UC can help improve the security and sound quality of your workplace, reach out to one of our experts.