The Sounds of the Office Have Changed: Now What?

The sound of a bustling office is a familiar audio hook. Often used to introduce the professional side of the female protagonist in a noughties rom-com, or used to drown out the mutterings of Patrick Bateman’s colleagues in American Psycho, that canned sound is a sound of the past. Ringing phones, loud printers, and, dare I say, the click-clack of heels across the floor. Familiar but dated, a relic of the workplace.

The pandemic and hybrid working threw into question the office’s role in the new working world as we are used to new kinds of working environments.

This, however, has not meant the offices have quietened down. The uptick in video calls has been causing a racket. Besides an overall shift in lifestyle for workers, hybrid working has brought to the fore what good office etiquette is. Should we be taking calls from open-plan desks? Is using a headset with a boom arm considerate enough for your desk neighbour’s focus time? Is it fair to demand industrial-scale soundproofing between meeting rooms because the new video conferencing equipment seems to be heavy on the bass?

What we need from our office spaces has fundamentally changed. At the crux of it, offices now need to provide options. Gone are the days of entirely open plan, but so are the days of chambers of smaller cubicles. Like anything truly healthy, we need variation, but open plan hot desking plus a few phone booths might not cut it.

In a push to solve the issue of the noisy office, Meta reached out to a host of architectural firms to help solve the noise disruption issue. Seven solutions were tested and a soundproof cube of screens won out. Workers can push and pull the screens around them to achieve varying levels of privacy and soundproofing, solving the noise issue and allowing for more adaptable and enjoyable spaces. Win, win win.

Another way companies have been tackling noise disruption is by investing in quality headsets. These are far easier soundproofing devices to transport than Meta’s screens, sensitive microphones ensure everyone can be heard, and background noise is non-existent. Customisation is important, functionality-wise, but also for self-expression.

For some, the peace and solitude of working from home has been a blessing, for others the yearning for background noise and people-watching persists. Headsets and the cube solution present an opportunity for the customisation of space for the benefit of all. Companies can customise office space and impact culture, and employees to adapt their personal working space, to suit their needs and the preferences of those around them. The opportunities the new working world presents for brands in the audio equipment space are plentiful, and allowing for adaptable solutions for personal preferences is key.

By: Eulalia Masterton

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