Most of our workspaces are shrinking, resulting in more people working in less space. Current design trends, encouraged by LEED standards, are reducing the height of panel based workstations. Additionally, we are migrating to a more “open plan” collaborative environment with less private spaces. All of these factors have positive economic, environmental and operational reasons for their implementation. The tradeoff? A more noisy environment, with less privacy.
Noise in the work environment increases stress and reduces productivity. Privacy, especially when dealing with client/patient confidentiality, can be a real source of concern and a violation of existing legislation like the HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and GLBA (Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act). There is a fairly simple and inexpensive technological solution to solve both the privacy and environmental noise problems in a workspace. Sound masking is a fairly old concept, but recent advances in product development and technology have made it more effective as well as economical. It works the same for both privacy and environmental issues. Essentially, it is an artificial noise source that is just a bit louder than the existing environment. The outcome is that the artificial noise will “cover” the sounds of clicking keyboards, printers, faxes, humming HVAC and conversations while presenting a steady, pleasant and unobtrusive sound background. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it makes sense. Pleasant sound is created that is just slightly louder than the annoying environmental noise thereby blocking out the annoying noises and making normal speech unintelligible.
The best analogy for Sound Masking is if you are sitting on a beach and you can’t understand the conversation of the couple sitting next to you. You know they’re speaking. You may even hear some of their voices, but you can’t understand their conversation. The reason for this is that the sounds of the waves, children playing, the wind etc. are masking the speech of your neighbors. Speech privacy is becoming an essential consideration, especially in the legal, healthcare and financial environments. Floorplans for acute care facilities, clinics and financial institutions are reflecting the current trend of designing open, inviting and customer friendly spaces. Speech that is not confined behind hard walls and closed doors will be heard, unless active steps are taken to prevent it. The key to making this all work is creating a balance between high, low and middle speech frequencies that is pleasant and unnoticeable to human hearing. Most providers of sound masking produce a whiney, high pitch that will mask noise, especially in the speech ranges. However, most of these will probably be turned off eventually due to their annoying output. We have found one provider who has found the solution by developing a reasonably priced product that operates throughout the perceptible range of hearing frequencies and most importantly is comfortable to hear.
Sound Masking is not sound reduction, or sound elimination. If you have a loudmouth co-worker down the hall, sound masking will reduce his diatribes to an unintelligible blur. You’ll still know that he’s talking, but you won’t be able to actually understand his latest monologue on healthcare reform, making him much less of a distraction, and allowing you to get on with your work. The product can be included in new construction, or retrofitted into an existing location. It does not need to be installed throughout your workspace, only in those areas that need sound masking. For example, an outpatient pharmacy may only need to install it at the transaction counter and waiting area, not throughout the storage areas. A law firm may only want to apply this technology to conference areas that are accessible to clients. It is reasonably priced at $1.50 -$2.00 per square foot, which includes installation. One consideration to keep in mind, is that these units may also be used as a paging system. Most of the cost of Sound Masking may be offset by eliminating your paging system from your budget.
Implementation of the system is easy, even if it is on a retrofit. Officenter will assess the environment, and ask you for a floorplan. We will gather the information for the factory engineers who will specify the correct products and location for the product. A factory installation crew will then install it. In many cases the actual operating units may be installed above your ceiling without being seen in the workspace. The bottom line is that environmental noise and speech privacy is now a necessary design consideration, with legal implications, for both new and existing office environments. There is now a reasonable, proven, existing technology that addresses these concerns. For more information, please contact your Officenter Sales Consultant, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org