Speech privacy is when only the intended target audience gets the message. Because of robust acoustic systems, the information stays within the group and doesn’t flow to others. The modern workplace environment makes keeping things confidential from unintentional listeners challenging. Video conferencing and smartphones further make it difficult to stop information leakage. Such incidents can be a concern for people involved in the private discussions. In simple words, speech privacy methods ensure conversations remain unintelligible to unwanted audiences in the same space to a more considerable extent and prevent distraction for everyone when any such discussion occurs. Do you wonder about the distraction part?
At a workplace, unnecessary sounds can quickly draw your worker’s attention. The direct effect of this will be on their productivity. Others will get distracted if you discuss something critical with anyone, and the sound travels outside your cabin or designated area. Those who may be interested in your conversations and are not a part of that privileged group can also feel distracted. But you can avoid compromising the confidentiality of the information and workers’ distraction with speech privacy solutions. No one will even try overhearing when the speech is hard to understand. They can concentrate more on their task.
The need for speech privacy
One must safeguard important details concerning negotiation, HR issues, private company affairs, patient and doctor conversations, etc. Confidential discussions tend to be sensitive, and others should not overhear. And that’s why speech privacy deserves attention. In an office, speech privacy is also critical to avoid distractions. Else, it affects productivity. Due to the sound of discussions reaching them, employees may need help to focus on the task at hand to avoid the risk of missing their targets. Statistics suggest that office distractions cause at least 25 minutes of productivity loss as people take so much time to resume their work. You can interpret it as a 5.2% productivity loss out of eight hours daily. While it’s just one example, loud conversations also irritate some people.
A 2019 study revealed that sound privacy complaints topped all the workplace-related concerns in the open plan layout. Unfortunately, the growing popularity of this real estate phenomenon indicates more trouble if the situation stays the same. Workers find it distracting and dissatisfactory. You must worry about this if you also have an open floor plan, which is undoubtedly the best setup for collaboration. But it does little for speech privacy. In America, as much as 70% of companies follow this format. Hence, please don’t blame yourself for this choice when you can use modern speech privacy systems and privacy masking technology to change the entire scene. The proper noise control techniques, like sound masking generators, can improve workplace productivity by 3-51%.
The office acoustics
You may ask how to manage sound in a specific work environment. You follow the ABC method in acoustics – Absorb, Block, and Cover. Materials like ceiling panels, carpets, and fabrics can absorb the sound of the speech lingering in the air as a wave. You can use hard surfaces to prevent them from penetrating unintended spaces. Glass walls can be handy. Lastly, you can cover or mask the sound through ambient background music playing slightly higher than the original noise level.
What is sound masking?
Of all the speech privacy systems, sound masking can be easy to install and more affordable for its widespread application. Some believe white noise is the same as sound masking, while the latter is more about creating ambient sound in the background matching the human speech’s frequency to make it hard to overhear for others. With such technologies, you can make your discussions more private and less distracting. Many industries benefit from this technology. Think of call centers, for example. In such workplaces, many people talk on the phones simultaneously, making it harder for anyone not to feel distracted or irritated. However, you can solve their problem by installing a sound masking device. They can attend their calls quickly. Hospitals need this solution to keep the environment lighter and protect conversations from reaching others’ ears.
How does sound masking work?
As mentioned, sound masking equipment adds low-level ambient sound to the backdrop to maintain the sanctity of human speech and decrease noise distractions. The beauty of this solution is its ability to work without drawing much attention. The sound created through the sound masking generator can be similar to airflow because of the frequency and amplitude needed to ensure speech privacy. You install ceiling speakers to send sound into the atmosphere, building a blanket. Sound masking keeps speech’s intelligible sound level within a specific area from 15 to 50 feet. Employees continue to work and contact their peers in the office without feeling any distractions.
A few critical points
Research shows that the brain becomes distracted when construing over 20% of conversations. You can determine the level of speech privacy by assessing the amount of intelligible dialogue. The Articulation Index (AI), a speech privacy measurement, depicts the range of confidentiality level from 0.0 – 0.04 and everyday speech from 0.05 – 0.2. The standard speech sound exceeding 0.2 means little or lack of speech privacy. An Articulation Index of 0.4 means the absence of speech privacy and high distraction levels caused by conversations. The typical conversation range is 65 decibels (loudness of the spoken words). Suppose the person is about 7 to 12 feet away from the discussion. That sound level for that unintended listener will come down to around 46 decibels.
However, the selection of the right product or technology is the key. If you add sound masking speakers that provide gentle ambient sound in the background higher than 47-48 decibels of the indirect noise level, the AI will come down to 0.2 or lower. If you ensure this, the productivity level in your office or facility will go up due to lesser distractions. People will not be able to overhear conversations. And the whole environment will feel much calmer, allowing everyone to focus on their work peacefully.
Every industry or business can benefit from speech privacy and sound masking, whether a bank, call center, school, library, research center, hospital, medical clinic, hotel, law firm, etc.