Sound Masking during Construction

Sound Masking

It might be a new year, but the same office problems unfortunately linger.  The most complained about workplace issue is conversational distraction.  Chosen distraction is one thing, but being held hostage by other people’s conversation is quite another. Think about the last time you were shopping on the same aisle or waiting in the same line as someone on a cell phone.  Even though their conversation about what type of kale to buy is not really that interesting to you.  However, as you hear only half the conversation about types of kale, your brain automatically, and usually against your will, tunes in to try to figure out what the person on the other end is saying (after all, maybe you do need to know more about kale, right?).  Besides eavesdropping, you’ve lost control of your train of thought.  You may have been ordering your day or errands, planning what’s next.  Instead, now you’re thinking about a green you’ve never purchased before and realistically have little intention of doing in the future.  In other words, you’ve been distracted.

The same thing happens in the office place.  Workers shift focus off work and onto distractions unwillingly.  Here are the facts: the average worker is distracted more than 2 hours every day and is interrupted no less than 70 times a day!  That’s a lot to complain about, isn’t it?  That’s why this year’s office resolution should be the same as many individual resolutions:

Get more out of the day!

Sound Masking ABC’s

If you’re lucky enough to be in the planning stages of your facility, then there are actually multiple steps you can take to get more out of your workplace’s days by taking advantage of the ABC’s.  When walls are bare and ceilings are uncovered, and  floors haven’t been chosen, you can consult with experts to find the best materials and resources for absorbing and blocking sound.   If you have the luxury of planning ahead for sound masking, there are multiple steps you could and should take.

  1. Sound Masking Systems handle noise the best by covering it, rather than absorbing or blocking it.

    Insulate the floors, walls, and ceilings as best you can.

  2. Specially-made boxes to go on top of the can lights to sound proof around them; otherwise you have “sound holes.”
  3. An extra layer of dry wall on the ceilings.
  4. An extra layer of cork or some such material underneath the flooring.
  5. Texture on the walls and ceiling- smooth, flat surfaces reflect noise, so it bounces around.
  6. Absorbent carpeting or wall panels.
  7. Partitions.
  8. Sound masking system.

Not all facilities or managers have the luxury of planning the building.  Thus, you can either alter what you have or prioritize your options cost-wise.  While a combination of the ABC’s is the most effective means of sound masking, hands-down, covering {a sound masking system} gets the most bang for the buck.

Whatever you’re trying to sound proof will determine what steps you take.  In a commercial building, creating speech privacy is crucial, so a combination of the sound masking ABC’s will be ideal in achieving your goal, be it a reduction of distractions or privacy.  But, in a pinch, sound masking systems get you the most.

2 Reasons You Might Need Sound Masking

Why You Might Need Sound Masking

Noise is a common office complaint.  Facilities that require sound treatment frequently look to sound masking systems that have been designed to emit low-level, structured white noise through in-ceiling speakers via direct-field technology.  The benefits of systems are that they can be zoned to treat specific problem areas and that these zones are invisible.  No awkward walls are added, carpeting or absorbent paneling is not necessary- in fact, facility managers can install the systems themselves in a matter of hours for immediate, effective sound coverage!

But, how does it work?  Essentially, the white noise used in sound masking systems is structured , meaning it is uniform instead of constantly changing, like speech, music, or general office noise.  This consistent noise allows the brain to tune out the inconsistencies and therefore helps workers in two main ways:

  1. First, they are less distracted.  The average worker is distracted more than 2 hours a day!  By reducing the number of distractions workers face every day, you enable those workers to stay focused and be more productive.
  2. Second, they enjoy confidentiality.  Sound masking provides speech privacy which renders surrounding speech unintelligible, and therefore protects the speakers from being overheard if the information is sensitive for any reason.

As you can see, sound masking technology can be quite beneficial for many businesses or practices because it enables workers to be more productive, as well as more protected, whether it’s a trade secret or just personal.  Besides being highly effective, sound masking is a great noise solution because it is fairly inexpensive {especially considering the immediate results}  and it is invisible to the eye and does not require aesthetic changes be made for installation.  As a result, sound masking can be planned for or added to an existing facility.

4 Tips to a More productive You

Office Acoustics & Why They’re Getting Worse

Business Insider recently ran an article on productivity tools.  From carrying a moleskin for incredibly creative insights to hiring an older assistant, these tips are fabulously unattainable for most.  They assume a certain managerial, possibly even budget-free quality of life.  Most of us don’t have assistants, much less the ability to buy every book we have a hankering for.  That said, I am definitely on the same page as the quoted Ryan Holiday:

“Like all people, I like to think I am a productive person,” Ryan says. “If I am, though, it’s because I’ve been ruthlessly efficient at one thing: stealing secrets and methods from people a lot smarter than me.”

I’m not claiming to be smarter than anyone, but I have balanced being a mom, a student, a teacher, and a professional- all at the same time!  So here are four tips straight from the trenches.  They are my daily go-to’s for better, more productive days.

Prioritize your day. It’s easy to lose a half hour to an hour checking email.  Instead, start your day with more important tasks or items on your to-do list.  Usually, even if you’re not a morning person, you’re starting off fresh and hopefully before you’ve hit any snags.  Only check your voice mail or e-mail once or twice a day, and keep your own messages short and direct. Don’t let low priority tasks interrupt you constantly throughout the day.

Use white noise. Today’s sound masking technology is very precise and floods the background with “white” noise that focused on the spectrum of human speech. Office-wide sound masking can lower distractions by up to 51 percent by covering the excess conversations and noise in an open floor plan. You can also try a personal sound machine, if you don’t have control over the sound quality in the office.

Limit distractions and interruptions. While you can’t control it all, you can certainly control yourself…right?  Try establishing a “no-interruption” time of about an hour to focus on important tasks (see first tip). Start by turning off all your self-distractions, like your phone and e-mail. Spend this time in focused concentration. Turn on a white noise machine to cover office noise(see second tip). You can even post a sign indicating that you currently cannot be interrupted, and a time when you will be available again. You can repeat this focused time throughout the day to make the most of your time.

Improve your posture. This one took longer to really implement.  Actually, it took aches, pains, and hand cramps for me to take seriously.  Typing/working however and wherever you want sounds great, but takes a toll on your body. If you can, adjust your chair to properly fit you, from the height of the seat so that your feet are flat on the floor to the backrest on your chair to fit the curve of your spine. You could also add portable lumbar support if your chair does not fully support your lower back (even a rolled up towel can do the trick!). Then, move your arm rests low enough or out of the way while typing to allow free arm movement.  Finally, be sure your hands are in a neutral typing position.  That means no weird positioning (even while mousing!) or cocked wrists.

Being intentional about your work habits can make all the difference between a day that simply passed and a day that was productive.

The Terrible Cost of Distracted, Disengaged Workers

The Cost of Distracted, Disengaged Workers

Whether workers are engaged in it or just held captive by it, office noise is simply distracting.  And distracted workers are unproductive, leading to disengagement.  Disengaged workers are costly because they:

  • are unproductive
  • make more errors
  • solve problems less
  • make fewer ergonomic adjustments
  • call in sick more frequently
  • turn over more often

That horrible combination of all negative symptoms adds up to about $600 billion per year for US businesses.  There’s not a single good thing that comes from distraction.  Even the workers find it a frustrating waste of time since many have to add evenings and weekends to their normal hours to make up for it.

Dealing with Distraction

There are two main ways to counter-act office noise/distraction- hint- one of them is not banning the internet.  Actually, the most distracting and unnecessary part of a worker’s day is conversational distraction.  So, the idea is to use sound masking to cover it.  The two ways to do that are to cover noise individually or corporately.

  1. Sound Machine.  Sound machines use white noise for individual users that can be adjusted as necessary.  They are affordable, but only work for 1 user at a time.
  2. Sound Masking System.  Like the name implies, this is a system that is intended for larger spaces.  It is zoned so that it’s not just a louder application.

If $600 billion a year bothers you, then consider what bothers your workers {noise!} and implement some form of sound masking to reclaim your part of it.

Dealing with Professionalism & Acoustics in Call Centers

2 Call Center Points of Action: Professionalism & Acoustics

Call centers serve as the home base for many businesses.  Whether they’re selling additional products or providing tech support or know-how, call centers can make or break customer service.  Their levels of professionalism, as well as their bedside manner, have the ability to put customers at ease or inspire walls of defense.  This all begs the question, what exactly makes an effective call center?  What precisely puts customers at ease or makes them defensive?

The most obvious answer is knowledgeable reps.  Those working at the center need to know their business, and they need to know it in a friendly, helpful way.  Either not knowing the answer to a customer’s question, or knowing it but sounding put-out or irritated alienates customers.  They will switch service providers as soon as they feel burdensome, belittled, or just not helped.

Once professionalism has been addressed, acoustic issues are next.  What good is a helpful rep if she can’t be heard?  A call center, full of employees all receiving and making calls, equals a lot of noise!

  • Background sound, even other callers, can make a customer feel like a number instead of a person.
  • The same background noise can be quite distracting for both customer and caller.
  • When a potential customer hears all this, it only adds to the feeling that their personal information is up for grabs.

Noise is quite a problem for call centers, both for the callers and the recipients.  Callers struggle to hear over other callers and recipients can hear all the background noise.  So, here’s the funny thing- noise can actually be the solution, the right kind of noise, that is.  White noise is a generated sound meant to counteract unwanted noise.  Businesses use it to reduce distractions, as well as provide confidentiality.  These same benefits help call centers, too.  A sound masking system helps both callers and prospective customers/donors by allowing them to tune out the overly distracting background noise.

The great thing about sound masking systems is that they can be added to any facility, including call centers, without even affecting the aesthetics.  You see, a sound masking system is installed in the ceiling tiles in a matter of minutes.  Thus, it is invisible and doesn’t even shut down the day’s business.  So, if you have a noisy call center and are looking for a noise solution that doesn’t require totally changing the set-up, rest assured that the VoiceArrest Sound Masking System is an invisible, affordable, effective, and quick fix for any facility.

Sound Masking & Hospital Health

Hospital Noise Frustrates Patients

Patients have long complained of noise, and researchers from Harvard found the following to be true:

  • They studied 12 healthy adults with prerecorded actual hospital sounds.
  • Machinery noises, especially alarms, bothered patients more than voices.
  • When the patients’ sleep was disturbed, their heart rates increased  {even if they did not wake up}.
  • As seen in previous studies, these disruptions are linked to high blood pressure, higher rates of heart disease, impaired immune function, increased memory problems, and depression.
  • As a result, sedatives may need to be used more frequently, thus adding time to patients’ stays, which costs the hospitals.

The Connection

In addition to this study, Press Ganey surveys show us that there is a clear link between patient satisfaction and their perception of quality care.  Essentially, patients are only satisfied if they feel they received good care, which makes sense, of course.  Beyond happy people and a good feeling, though, satisfaction usually presents itself in less stressed patients who present fewer problems for hard-working staff, who can then make fewer mistakes and run a more efficient facility.  Lastly, satisfied patients offer repeat and referral business because they share their good experience with their acquaintances.   Thus, it is important to consider what would make a patient feel satisfied.

The researchers from the first study were aware of this link between patient satisfaction and their perception of quality care.  They found that a noisy hospital environment that causes disturbed sleep “may lead to increased use of medicines like sedatives that have side effects such as increased falls and increased rates of delirium. This can lead to a longer hospital stay,” he said.

The authors also suggest that hospital administrators need to address three key issues to create a restful environment :

  • the acoustics of the hospital
  • the routines of hospital staff
  • eliminating the noises from medical equipment.

Dealing with Hospital Noise

Hospitals are finding creative ways to decrease staff noise with lighting and designated quiet times.  As for more over-arching acoustics, many facilities are turning to sound masking.  Sound masking is the use of white noise in the background so that irregular, disruptive noise is less intelligible or bothersome.  As the study says, the hope is that when patients have a quiet environment where they can sleep and heal, patient outcomes may improve. When the dial on hospital noise is turned down, researchers say, “we can expect decreased lengths of stay and lower rates of re-admission.”

Speech Privacy for Banks

Establishing Speech Privacy

Banks handle many sensitive transactions, information that if leaked, could destroy many people and institutions.  We all know this.  What we don’t all know is how to stop those leaks.

Speech privacy is a commodity- it’s not easily attained without being intentional.  Financial institutions could certainly benefit from fewer digital and conversational leaks. Besides increased productivity, the added bonus of speech privacy for banks is just that: privacy. Be it for the bank itself, or the customer, speech privacy cannot be over-rated.  That’s why every aspect of leaks needs to be considered- not just the digital ones.

Consider Possible Sound Leaks:

It’s great that there are signs for customers to stand back a few feet for the privacy of the customer in front of him, but a few feet really don’t make a huge difference if there’s speech intelligibility.  Conversations travel from tellers to customers to other customers to the lobby, etc.  And that’s just the people waiting in line.  It doesn;t account for the hundreds of other conversations that take place at “private” desks or over the phone.

Consider the following: where do you discuss or use confidential and/or legally-protected client information?  Now consider the following facts:

  • Walls, doors and windows vibrate and can transmit sound
  • HVAC ducts can carry sound far from the intended audience
  • Telephones can be bugged

Even when basic privacy measures are taken, if conversation is transmitted, then there’s simply not confidentiality.  Sound masking systems are designed to establish speech privacy and plug the easy to miss leaks.  The result is happier customers and happier bankers…because everyone wants to feel and be safe.

 

Sound Masking for Worker Engagement

Conversational Distractions

If you’re frustrated with a seeming lack of productivity in the work place, then you might be interested to know the following facts:

  • Acoustic dissatisfaction is the leading source of workplace dissatisfaction.

  • This acoustic dissatisfaction is most frequently related to speech privacy, or the overhearing of unwanted conversations.

  • In a study of seven office buildings, 72% of respondents were dissatisfied with speech privacy in their workplace.

Essentially what’s being said is that workers are distracted, and not only that, they’re frustrated about it.  This leads to worker disengagement which leads to all sorts of other problems: higher stress, lower productivity, and more mistakes, sick days, and turn-over.

Sound Masking

Thankfully, worker disengagement is not inevitable.  The solution is the establishment of speech privacy.  By achieving speech privacy, the number and source of distractions are limited so that the brain tunes them out in order to keep working.  Like the many forms of distraction, there are many ways  in which to think about speech privacy, most commonly referred to as the ABC’s of sound masking.

  • You can ABSORB the sound with panels or better ceiling tiles.

  • You can BLOCK the sound by building walls or furniture partitions.

  • You can COVER the sound by installing a high quality sound masking system.

While these three tools work best in conjunction, it is covering, or sound masking with a system like the VoiceArrest, that is the most effective and also the least invasive measure.  Thus, if lost time to distractions is a concern for your company, be sure to check out your various speech privacy options.  They are often more affordable than you imagined, and certainly more effective than most believe.

8 Tips for Working from Home

These days, women are legally protected from being fired or discriminated against for being mothers or even being pregnant.  We don’t have to disclose our marital status, and certainly not our children or plans to have children.  Most work places hold new mothers’ jobs during maternity leave and even offer paternity leave since there are two parents adjusting to a newborn in the home.  It has become that many women are able to return to work 6 weeks after baby enters the world and none the worse for it.  However, many of us have had to or chosen to leave the work force because we’ve had a baby.  Maybe it was the sleepless nights that persisted, against all odds, past the 6-week mark when leave was up and left us less than refreshed and productive during the day.  Or maybe it was the heartbreak of dropping baby off for the entire day that drew us back home.  Or possibly it was the cost- we simply couldn’t make enough at work to cover the costs of day care, especially for multiple children.  For any reason above or many others, many mothers have found themselves at home, but still needing a paycheck either for practical purposes or even just to have something that’s not kid-saturated to occupy the mind.

I am one of those women.  I knew I wouldn’t work when we had our first, but once she got a bit older, I was presented with an opportunity to work from home that was too tempting to pass up.  Now we have 3 kids, and I’m still working from home and loving it.  I am asked all the time how I do it, how I manage drop-offs and pick-ups and nap time and sick days, etc and still consistently put in the work time.  I won’t lie- it’s not easy, but it is feasible.

Tips for Working from Home

Here are a few of the things I do to actually be a mom and accomplish my work:

1. Work during sleep times/parent during wake times. I don’t care how tired I’ll be, my kids will only be young once, and I am not going to miss it.

2. Coordinate their naps – even if it means hard work. Since I had #2, I have worked from home. From the day I brought him home, he and my older one have slept at the same time- not for the same amount of time, but they go down at the same time. Now that my older one has dropped her nap, she has preschool during the weekday afternoons and “room time/quiet time” on the weekends where she plays by herself in her room. This gives me work time, her a break, as well as a creative outlet that all the experts say is necessary for a well-balanced child.

3. Turn off the phones/ringers. I can call back later.

4. Check email at beginning of work time to see if there’s anything urgent, then close it out, so I don’t see new ones coming in.

5. Use white noise. It helps drone out the neighbors and gives a peaceful hum that keeps me task-oriented. (Here is a free white noise generator I like that you can try out.)

6. Set reasonable expectations and goals and communicate those with boss – I can only accomplish so much during my work hours. It’s important that my employer know my situation and know that my kids come first (so does my husband for that matter).

7. Honor my work schedule/commitment – if it’s 10 hrs/week, work 10 hrs/week. I am creative as to how I get it in (such as going to a coffee shop on a Sat morning, which is a welcome break for me from a normal day or working all during the week so that I have the weekend off), but I always honor my commitment, which keeps me employed.

8. No computers from 5-7pm. These are the fussy times for the kids and when my husband comes home. My family gets my time when they need it, no question. (My husband has the same rule and our marriage has changed as a result – we pay more attention to each other and the children, and we all have thrived.)

 

I know it seems like there should be a 9 and 10, but in all honesty, I’d be making them up, whereas the above 8 items are things I actually do.

The Cost of Distractions & 4 Benefits to Sound Masking

The cost of distractions

Distractions are frustrating, and unfortunately, in addition to an emotional toll, they carry a business cost as well.  Let’s break it down:

This is a troublesome and very expensive problem for businesses that needs attention.  Distraction comes in many forms, and one of the most time- and profit- sucking means is conversational distraction.  That may be surprising, as most think of internet shenanigans as the culprit.  The internet does rank, but most people seem to manage to multitask and still get something done.  However, co-worker conversations tend to catch our attention to the point we quit working, whether we mean to or not.

Thus, it’s important to find a way to effectively deal with office chatter.

4 Benefits of Sound Masking

Distraction is a problem for every office that has more than 1 worker.  In fact, a 2011 study showed that “overheard conversation” as the  biggest complaint when working without an office sound masking system in place.  There are many benefits of setting up an office sound masking system.  From increased productivity to reduced turn over, sound masking can save you money.

Confidentiality – Office sound masking systems help protect private conversations that could be overheard and cause expensive lawsuits for your business.  Speech Privacy Systems is the only company that offers a complete sound masking solution and can guarantee confidentiality.

Employee Productivity – Studies show productivity goes down by as much as 40% because of noise and distractions. ?Speech Privacy Systems can raise productivity by up to 35% with an appropriately installed office sound masking system

Employee Error Rate – The Data Entry Management Association states that data entry errors can go up by as much as 38% because of office noise and distractions.?An appropriately installed office sound masking system can decrease that rate significantly.

Turn Over – Stress, mental fatigue, unwanted distractions & exceptionally vocal coworkers can all increase turn over.  This can lead to increased investments in training and unemployment.  Speech Privacy Systems office sound masking systems have been proven to decrease turnover.

Installing a custom Voice Arrest Sound Masking System is the first and most cost-effective step to improving sound masking in your office.  Appropriate sound dampening panels and higher cubicle walls can further contribute to improved open office sound masking.  The key to getting the best office sound masking system for your space is personalized professional guidance.  Contact Speech Privacy Systems to get an idea of how to best approach sound masking in your office.