Out of Sound, Out of Mind

How Sound Masking Technology is an Investment in your Business

We’ve all been there. You’re on a call with a client, superior, or even someone from home, and you can barely hear yourself think over the sound of your surroundings. Whether it be your co-worker’s foot-tapping echoing down the hall or an explosive series of construction-related cacophony, noise can ruin your work day. And in this day and age where sleek, open, minimalistic office layouts are all the rage, it’s more important than ever to keep sound design and acoustic privacy in mind.

This month we sat down with Evan Robins, an account manager at Meadows Office Interiors (Meadows), to discuss the potential sound masking technology has to remedy your rowdy neighbors and overloud distractions. Robins and his team believe in the “ABCs of Architectural Acoustics:” absorb, block, and cover. This is achieved through new wall paneling, carpeting, and ceiling tiles, which absorb excess sound. Afterward a layer of ambient noise can be added to a workspace blocking the flow of unwanted sound. This sound is specifically designed to match and cover the frequency of human speech, so that while neighbor conversations can be heard, they cannot fully be understood, allowing them to become merely white noise.

Here’s what Robins had to say about the benefits of the new technology. 

Exactly how costly is sound masking to install? How much more would it cost to retrofit sound masking as opposed to installing it initially?

This all depends on the project, because although new construction is usually less expensive than retrofit, that’s not always the case. There are a number of different products available in the sound masking suite of services, so it would be best to consult with a trusted partner like Meadows early on in the process. That being said, it is not more expensive overall to do retrofit versus new install. 

Could sound masking eliminate external street noise as well as noise within the office building itself?

Sound masking is all about reducing the “radius of distraction.” In some cases, this is equivalent to increasing the distance between employees by a factor of three. Depending on the building, sound masking may be able to help filter out external sounds, however, that would also depend on the structure of the building itself and how well it is sealed from outside noise. Sound masking doesn’t eliminate noise, it’s actually adding noise. This noise acts like a blanket and smooths out all other noises so that it is drowned out or dispersed and therefore easier to concentrate because the user is less focused on any one single noise source.

Do you see sound masking as a future necessity for the modern workplace? If so, when do you think sound masking will become a commonplace amenity?

I do believe that sound masking is a necessity for offices of the future. More and more, open floor plans and sleek design are eliminating all of the older products that were friendly to office acoustics such as high partition walls, carpeting, and less glass. Sound masking is one of the only ways to take back some of that lost acoustic privacy without sacrificing the modern office design.

What is an example of an office/office building in NYC that has successfully implemented sound masking?

The Meadows Office Interiors showroom features sound masking installed correctly in a number of different mediums, and we routinely bring clients to our space to perform a demo where we turn the sound masking off so that they can experience the difference. Many notable banks and healthcare institutions also employ sound masking as a standard for office rollouts to help protect private information, and this counts toward regulation credits.

Do you think sound masking runs the risk of creating an antisocial office environment that is too insular and cut off from the outside world?

I would say the exact opposite. In many cases when an office is not balanced acoustically, or you can hear your neighbor’s every word, people tend to put on headphones. When an office is acoustically balanced and sound masking is added, normal human speech and conversations between neighbors is much less distracting. Sound masking is a great asset to activity based/collaborative working. Offices that are creating designs around motion and people working in open spaces will benefit more from sound masking to help them achieve this goal, without distracting employees.

What are some other workplace technologies that you would consider a worthy investment?

Meadows represents a number of different workplace technology products that we have introduced to enhance the office experience. A few that we represent are: wireless charging units for cell phones built into the furniture, digital signage and collaboration touchscreens, and conference room reservation/booking solutions.

For more information, please visit: www.meadowsofficeinteriors.com

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