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How to drown out noise in open-plan offices

Open-plan offices are the latest ‘thing’ for modern businesses. They’re meant to encourage communication and collaboration between departments, but research shows the set-up actually damages employees’ attention spans, stress levels, short-term memory, productivity, creative thinking and satisfaction because there’s no escape from ambient noise.

Joel Beckerman, Founder of Man Made Music, recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review on ways some businesses are combating noise levels. Here are some ideas for those who need a reprieve from the din.

Create an immersive soundscape
Beckerman says his New York City-based office has taken a holistic approach to noise cancellation by implementing sonic art installations, featured playlists and coordinating lighting cues. He says it has helped his staff work effectively and happily.

Use white and pink noise
Of course, not every business will be the right setting for such an immersive solution. Companies can also try installing speakers throughout the office that play white noise to drown out distracting sounds without inhibiting phone conversations. There’s also pink noise, which is effective at masking speech.

Grab your headphones
Providing speakers and playlists for the whole office can be expensive. If you’re company doesn’t offer a solution, put on your headphones and create your own soundscape. Beckerman recommends using tracks that help you focus, whether it’s white noise or our favourite band. He also points to a number of sound apps such as Thunderscape, Coffitivity and Ambiance.

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