Should You Consider a Sound Masking System for Your Office?

By: Dan Olk
March 6, 2024

One very common pre-pandemic assumption was that employees working remotely would be less productive and more easily distracted. Forgive me for saying so, but I always thought that assumption was odd, as many offices can be noisy, distracting places. It’s always been easy for workplace conversations to slide into water cooler conversations, and it’s always been easy for minor workplace annoyances — like an unpleasant ringtone or a loud-talking coworker — to become points of friction. 

There are many ways to make your office a far more productive, more pleasant place to be, but few are as easy and impactful as sound masking. In this blog, I’ll explore what it is and whether it’s something you should consider.

What Is Sound Masking?

Someone annoyed by loud coworker

Sound masking is adding a special sound that matches the frequency of human speech to reduce distractions and protect privacy. When done well, no matter where you are in a room, it’s not something you notice. It simply fades into the background and takes many distractions along with it. 

While adding white noise or running a loud fan technically falls under the banner of sound masking, professional sound masking is more effective and far more pleasant. 

What Is the Difference Between Sound Masking and Noise Cancellation?

Man wearing noise cancelling headphones

Some people use sound masking and noise cancellation interchangeably, but they’re actually very different. Noise cancellation technology works by generating an opposing sound wave — called anti-noise. 

Unfortunately, noise canceling only works well in very, very small spaces, which is why you typically find this technology in headphones. Noise-canceling headphones are great for planes and mass transit, but you might not want to wear them Monday through Friday, 8:00–5:00.

What Is the Purpose of Sound Masking? 

Woman overhearing something at work

If you’re like most people, you don’t give much thought to sound masking, but you’re instantly aware when it’s missing. 

Maybe it was that overly friendly bank teller announcing your transaction to the entire line, or hearing a nearby dental patient reveal their marital problems. Chances are that at some point, you might have even overheard a coworker making a healthcare appointment, and you now know things about their medical history that you can’t unhear. 

Proper sound masking can prevent all sorts of awkward problems, but it can also prevent legal ones. 

What Are the Benefits of Sound Masking?

Healthcare reception area

Sound masking can’t block out weird lunch smells, but it goes a long, long way in allowing employees to focus on the work — not each other. It also minimizes the possibility of someone overhearing something they shouldn’t. And for some workplaces that have special privacy needs, sound masking might be a legal requirement.

1. Protect Privacy

This is obviously a big one. Depending on your industry, failing to maintain confidentiality might come at a heavy price. But even if your business isn’t regulated by a state or federal agency, you have a moral obligation to protect your customers’ and employees’ sensitive information — from curious ears as well as from prying eyes. 

2. Maintain Professionalism

Have you ever walked into a business and overheard staff members complaining about their day? It’s not a good first impression. If your sales team tends to make loud, boisterous calls, or your employees love a little light banter, sound masking can preserve the best parts of your workplace culture without spoiling your image with office visitors and potential customers. 

3. Reduce Workplace Drama

If you’ve ever had to put an employee on a PIP, you already have enough to worry about without someone overhearing the highlights of the conversation. What’s said in the corner office often should stay there. And depending on the type of meetings your staff needs to have, that could also be true for your conference room. 

4. Improve Productivity

Productivity is one of those terms that can be hard to quantify, but it’s certainly not impossible. So here are a few statistics that paint a clearer picture: 

You can’t eliminate distractions from the work week, let alone from life. But you can dramatically reduce audible ones, which tend to be the biggest, most annoying kind.

5. Increase Health and Wellness — Yes, Really!

Some prefer to listen to music while they work or enjoy a little background hum. Noise in and of itself isn’t typically a problem. But unwanted, distracting noise is a different beast, and it’s more than just irritating. 

The physical effects of constant interruptions are not unlike losing an entire night’s sleep. Frequent distractions can also activate the production of adrenaline and cortisol. Over time, that prolonged stress response can actually produce anxiety, digestive problems, headaches, weight gain, problems with memory and focus, and more. 

Not only does sound masking help reduce interruptions and distractions, but depending on the type of sound masking you use, it can even improve memory and sleep!

Many offices aren’t noisy, distracting, or rambunctious environments. But if yours is, and your employees have complained, it’s time to look into it.

Which Organizations Should Consider Sound Masking? 

Open floor plan workspace

Every organization is different, but here are the types of organizations that tend to benefit most from sound masking: 

  • Industrial or manufacturing companies 
  • Healthcare institutions 
  • Mental health clinics and private practices
  • Financial institutions
  • Law firms
  • Government organizations 
  • Any organization with an open floor plan
  • Schools and libraries
  • Spas

Making Your Next Steps Simple

We have partnered with Cambridge — the world’s leading sound masking provider — to give our clients the highest-performing sound masking and paging solutions on the market.

Click the link below to talk to an audio-visual specialist! 

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Topics: Audio/Video