How to attain speech privacy at your workplace

June 5, 2019

Employees working together in modern open office space

Modern offices tend to be loud. New designs increasingly use open floor plans and smaller work stations, along with glass, metal or wood surfaces. This may be aesthetically pleasing, but these design choices increase noise levels. The ability for employees to speak in private—or to avoid hearing private conversations from coworkers—is becoming almost impossible. One recent survey found that nearly 60 percent of workers today are unhappy with the lack of speech privacy in their workplace, and presently, it is the number one cause of employee dissatisfaction. Employers should take note, since employees are not only increasingly unhappy, but they are also less productive. Constant noise distractions make it difficult to concentrate and reduce employee productivity. Furthermore, overheard confidential conversations can result in complex legal issues for the employer as well as the employee.

So what’s to be done about it?

Consider a sound masking system. Such systems add an extra layer of noise to offices. This noise sounds like flowing air or pink noise, and is specifically tuned to make human speech less intelligible. Cambridge Sound Management, a sound masking system used in many organizations point out that a sound masking system makes “…conversations that would normally distract someone at a distance of over 15 feet in the workplace notably less intelligible or noticeable. Additionally, face to face collaboration with fellow employees is not impacted, as conversations at a distance fade into the background and speech privacy is protected.” To learn more about sound masking systems, check out their website at

How it works

Introducing noise to an environment decreases the “Articulation Index,” which is a measurement of how intelligible speech is absorbed and comprehended. According to, you don’t have to actually stop the sound waves from a speaker’s voice in order to obtain speech privacy; you just have to make the speaker’s words unintelligible. If you think a sound masking system is right for you, be sure to shop around and know that such systems can be tuned to fit your specific environment. Visit to learn more about speech privacy.

For more information on improving productivity and increasing employee satisfaction, contact Vanguard Resources at