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Research conducted over the last decade shows that poor acoustics is the number one cause of workplace dissatisfaction and the most significant factor affecting employee performance.

If you work in a modern office, you can likely relate. Despite today’s emphasis on collaboration, usually you’re spending time on work that requires concentration. Disruptive noises and conversations make tasks harder to complete. Errors happen more often. That adds to stress. And it takes more effort to focus, which tires you out, affecting your mood and, ultimately, your productivity.

Are closed offices or meeting rooms the solution? It seems you get privacy, but in fact sound often leaks from one room to the next through the ceiling, penetrations in the walls’ structure or air transfer components, allowing conversations and noise to be heard both inside and outside the space. In fact, if the door is open, you may have even less noise control than those in an open plan.

Many people pursue noise control strategies in the belief that effective acoustics will only be achieved when the volumes in their facility are as low as possible. Various methods are drawn into this ‘Quest for Silence,’ including blocking and absorption. Though these are important steps, part of the problem with this approach is that it’s impossible to eliminate all noises from a busy workplace. Furthermore, the more silent one tries to make a space, the louder the remaining noises seem to occupants.

This phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that an effective acoustic environment relies on the provision of an appropriate noise floor or level of continuous background sound.

Once established, it covers up any noises that are lower in volume and diminishes the impact of those that are higher. Without it, occupants can clearly hear conversations and noises, even those generated at a distance or relatively low in volume. The noise floor in offices is often so low that conversations are intelligible from up to 50 feet (15 meters) away.