Using Technology to Protect Speech Privacy

Using Technology to Protect Speech Privacy

When you look around your office building, what do you see? Probably a series of private offices along the wall and cubicles taking up most of the center open space. Somewhere there will be a conference room or two. In a lot of modern offices, you will probably see communal worktables, open rafters, no fluorescent lights, and glass walls. While all this looks great, it also can create a lot of frustration among employees. Why? These open areas, hard surfaces, and thin walls cause a lot of speech privacy issues.

Low cubical walls are great for collaboration. However, they do nothing to block out a loud co-worker talking on the phone. Glass walls and large windows create an appealing modern feel. However, noise literally bounces off them and ricochets through the entire office.

Noise distractions are a constant problem for HR managers and team leaders. Often a co-worker can be labeled as rude and inconsiderate for being loud and disruptive. Employees who complain too much can be viewed as whiners or lacking a team mentality. The truth is your office may be creating a situation that causes employee discomfort and conflict because it does not allow for speech privacy.

What is speech privacy?

Speech privacy is the inability for an unintended listener to block out outside conversations. Someone who lacks speech privacy is probably overhearing a lot of conversations that are not intended for them. This can be distracting and disruptive to their work. Depending on the nature of the conversations it can be uncomfortable or inappropriate. It can also make this employee concerned that their conversations are being overheard by others. This leads to low satisfaction and poor morale in the workplace.

A recent study by UC Berkley found that as much as 72% of interviewed employees were dissatisfied with speech privacy in their workplace. This shows speech privacy is a common concern among most employees and is a widespread problem for most employers.

Speech privacy can reduce productivity.

On average employees lose 21.5 minutes of productivity daily because of conversational distractions, which is 4% of an 8-hour workday. If you estimate an average salary of $40,000 at a company of 50 employees, that is an annual loss of $80,000 in productivity. Speech Privacy problems do not stop there.

Lack of speech privacy can an HR nightmare.

It is no longer sufficient to assume a closed-door guarantees privacy. In fact, it can make the problem worse. A closed-door can create an illusion of privacy that may not exist. Thin or glass walls, doorway gaps, and more can violate privacy within an office. A lack of sufficient speech privacy in medical, financial, legal, and educational settings could even be illegal. Insufficient speech privacy is a huge liability for businesses.

Office designers and architects need a solution for acoustical design and sound planning. The solution is simpler and most affordable than you might think.

Sound-masking is a sophisticated way of creating a background noise that makes your space seem quieter. Sounds contradictory, I know. But the way it works will blow you away.

Sound-masking adds ambient sound in a specific tonal range to make human speech less intelligible. It does not eliminate all noises. It simply reduces the frequency ranges in which human speech becomes distracting. Think of it this way. Have you ever had a conversation with someone while they were washing the dishes? You are standing right next to them, but you can’t make out what they are saying. It may sound like they are softly speaking. When the water is turned off, their speech is normal and discernable. That is sound masking.

IntelliSystems has provided sound-masking for years. Our system uses built-in ceiling speakers that emit, and widely disperse, low volume ambient noise that reduces and masks human chatter. These speakers create zones within your space that allow for different volume levels to meet the unique acoustic requirements for different office areas. Our system is unobtrusive, affordable, and effective.