Sound Masking at Home?

Sound masking systems have grown steadily in popularity in office working spaces over the past few decades, with companies becoming more aware of how workplace environments impact their bottom line. Office spaces are often filled with lots of people working on different tasks, clicking mouses, having conversations or just generally producing distracting noise.

So, surely working from home removes all that distracting noise from the equation? Perhaps you would expect that to be the case, and for some people that may be true. But the fact is, even if you live alone, or have the place to yourself throughout the working day, you can guarantee that there will still be sounds that distract you from your work.

So what is sound masking and how can it help?

Sound masking is simply a method of dealing with noise within a room or travelling between rooms. Sound masking is an ambient or sound which operates at a frequency that targets other sounds within the room. What sound masking systems do is make a room seem quieter by raising the ambient noise level within the room, making other sounds less distracting. This includes masking other conversations, which is the number one most distracting factor. Sound masking makes speech noise less intelligible and therefore less distracting.

For an in depth explanation of sound masking, visit out information page.

But is the masking sound distracting on its own?

Good sound masking products are specifically engineered to match the frequencies of human speech. Some systems also calibrate and adjust depending on the level and frequency of noises within your space. Some cheaper sound masking products will simply create “white noise” at frequencies which actually become irritating and distracting. Basic white noise machines can be purchased for as little as £30, but just like a squeaking door, your ears will pick up that noise and thus become distracting on its own.

Should you consider a system for home?

If you have trouble concentrating during working hours, or relaxing out of working hours, the answer is yes.

The problem is, at this stage all good sound masking systems are designed for commercial office use. From my research, there currently is not a legitimate domestic sound masking product available. Properly engineered sound masking at home is a new concept in the general consumer world, but expect new products to be developed in response to changes to work patterns across the globe.

Sound masking isn’t a one size fits all solution for noise problems. Sound masking is especially effective for spaces which are already pretty quiet, as the system helps to mask and block sudden sounds which would normally be distracting. If the space you are working with is loud, and has already poor acoustic qualities then sound masking may not be the best solution for you

What can I buy?

Whilst there may not be a fantastic and comprehensive residential sound masking solution on the market today, there are some products which could help give a similar affect. These machines are further towards a white noise machine, so we can refer to these as “sound machines”. They don’t adjust and calibrate according to sounds within the space, they simply emit a static noise which fills the space with ambient sound. Traditionally these devices are used to help relaxation and sleep quality at night time, but are suitable for use any time of the day. Disclaimer: We have not tested these devices, we are simply linking a few potential options to check out following our research.

Of course, as usual Amazon has a few available:

LectroFan Evo – £64.95 on Amazon

According to wired.com this is the best overall sound machine for use at home. This machine has a range of stored sounds, an optional 60 minute timer and wide volume range. For a simple, affordable and effective machine for the home, this could be worth a try.

 

Sound+Sleep Adaptive Sound Machine – £149.95 on Amazon

This could be the closest thing to a legitimate home sound masking system that we have right now. The adaptive feature raises the volume of its noise when it hears other noises; we can’t vouch for its effectiveness, but expect so see some similar products launched to the market in the future.

Where do we go from here?

With the current working from home trends, consumers will continue to search for ways to improve their home setup to optimize productivity. Acoustic treatment should become a higher priority in residential settings, as more and more of us seek to achieve the same level of sustainable productivity as we do in the office.

In the past, working from home, or the option to, has increased performance. Nicholas Bloom, a Standford economist and researcher published a paper in 2015 extolling the benefits of working from home. His experiment revealed that working from home during a 9-month period led to a 13% increase in performance and a 50% drop in employee turnover using a 1000 employee sample size.

However, the current situation is completely different thanks to four factors as mentioned by Bloom: children, space, privacy and choice. Working from a dedicated home office, that is purpose built to avoid distractions, makes it quite easy to meet normal productivity goals. Working from the kitchen table with young kids running around, and having no choice but to try and make it work, does the complete opposite. It’s these types of situations where treatments such as sound masking and sound absorption could greatly improve the WFH experience, and help maintain productivity.

It will be interesting to see the shift towards better acoustic comfort in residential spaces.

Resources:

  1. “The productivity pitfalls of working from home in the age of COVID-19”. Stanford News. N.p., 2020. Web. 7 Jul 2020. URL: https://news.stanford.edu/2020/03/30/productivity-pitfalls-working-home-age-covid-19/
  2. “The Best Sound Machines for a Blissful Night’s Sleep” Wired. N.p., 2020. Web. 7 Jul 2020. URL: https://www.wired.com/gallery/best-sound-machines/