We understand that a comfortable, well-ventilated, well-lit workplace is a more productive workplace. In fact, offices that operate under these conditions generally see a 16% increase in productivity and a 24% increase in employee satisfaction. However, light, fresh air, and ergonomically designed furniture are just three variables in the equation. The final piece necessary to create a productive workplace is the monitoring of sound or office speech privacy, in particular.
Office speech privacy is violated when an unintentional listener can hear and understand a conversation she is not a part of. You don’t want your private conversations being overheard, nor do you want to hear everyone else’s conversations constantly. It is as distracting as it is inappropriate. In Healthcare there are HIPPA considerations as well.
Acoustics can be tricky, so offices with an open workstation design sometimes pose a challenge for maintaining speech privacy. This affects the workers on a day-to-day basis, disrupting the flow of business, and ultimately hindering the company’s success. Attracting and retaining employees in a noisy environment is a unnecessary hurdle.
The most obvious reason we would want to monitor the intelligibility of conversations within an office environment is to protect sensitive information. There are very few barriers in an office with an open plan, so sound travels in all directions. An important meeting, a phone call with a client, or a discussion with your boss are all things that should be private for your own sake, the sake of the business, and for the sake of the customer or client.
Avoiding distraction is the other primary reason for monitoring sound. Overheard conversations can be very distracting to a separate party holding their own conversation, or to an individual trying to concentrate on a task. The more intelligible an overheard conversation is, the more distracting it becomes to others. This, of course, directly influences the level of productivity in the office and the level of satisfaction employees have with their work environment.
So, what’s the solution for an open office design? Sound masking is often used to control noise level in the office. This method involves adding low-level background sound through a specially designed sound masking system. Another solution to use in conjunction with a sound masking system is to rearrange the design of the office. This includes seating workers so that they are facing away from one another as well as providing enough distance between their workstations.
Today we spend more than 1,896 hours at work every year, and we work an average 164 hours more than people did 20 years ago. If we are spending all that time in the office, we deserve comfort and privacy. Protecting office speech privacy is what is best for the business, the worker, and the worker’s neighbor.