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Sound Off: I Miss Sound Masking!

Written By
Rose Mary Su, featured image

I have a confession to make… I miss sound masking!

So, I’ve working in an open-plan office for the last 10 years where electronic sound masking is a big part of our office design. It is combined with a sound absorptive ceiling and taller-than-average (5′ to 6′ tall) office partitions. At times I questioned the effectiveness of this overhead electronic sound masking system. After all, I have always been pretty good at tuning things out while working in my office.

Sometimes, I would wonder: can’t we just turn it off once in a while? See how pleasant it is to be in a very quiet environment rather than having a constant masking sound more similar to HVAC noise? It will be a bit more like being at home, more relaxed, and perhaps I would be even more productive?

Well, it turns out, I got what I asked for this month. Our office is going through a renovation, and we have been shuffled into temporary work areas in an adjoining area. This place, like our actual office, is a combination of private rooms and open spaces. But, there is a lack of sound absorption in the ceiling and no electronic sound masking system. It is a fantastic way to test out a new work environment!

  • Day 1: I’m excited to be sitting in a private, stick-built office that I share with a colleague. We get along, it’s great. The door of this room opens up to an open area where the reception and kitchen are also located. Very close to our coffee supply — life is good!
  • Day 2: So, now I am beginning to realize I have to be a part of my officemate’s conversation if I like it or not. But, there is no physical barrier separating us visually and acoustically, so this update shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. That’s okay, though, because this is only temporary. However, I also hear a lot of conversations right outside my office…
  • Day 3: On top of my new roomie’s conversations, I’m starting to see (well, technically, hear) how I will be roped into the ones happening in the office next to mine when our doors are open. This is the case even though we have a floor-to-ceiling wall between us! Looks like for the next few weeks, I’ll be utilizing my own version of sound masking — the headphone.

…Now, I’m starting a new day count: when I can move back to my old desk!