Coworking Space Amenities

Look good, sound better: Balance beauty and noise in coworking

Coworking and flex office spaces face unique challenges when it comes to creating an aesthetically pleasing design that also has functional acoustics. The much-loved style of exposed brick, wood beams, glass walls, and open floor plans looks amazing but is also notorious for allowing disruptive noise to echo throughout the space. 

Which doesn’t add up to a place where work is easy to do. And such issues are often an afterthought, only discovered when the space is full of members on calls, having conversations, moving around… and creating a general ruckus.

Chief Master Sergeant (ret) Debra Westmoreland, principle of Sound Masking USA, helps coworking operators solve these problems. After wrapping up a 30-year career with the United States Air Force, Westmoreland sought a new calling, and found one in acoustic management. 

“After retirement, I wanted to do something new — something that I’d never even heard of before. And up until that point, I’d never really heard of sound masking,” Westmoreland said. That was about to change.

Electronic sound masking surprisingly effective

Among her many discoveries and learnings upon entering the industry, one in particular stands out. While Westmoreland expected traditional acoustic panels to absorb noise, she didn’t anticipate how well electronic sound masking would work.

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“It was the actual electronic sound masking. That really surprised me of how it covers the human voice. And makes it unintelligible,” she said.

By emitting a uniform, unobtrusive background noise tuned to frequencies of the human voice, sound masking limits how far conversations carry. 

That is particularly important in government and military environments, where classified information is discussed in specified areas. But corporate environments also need to think about privacy and protection of sensitive information.

For example, with electronic sound masking, conversation from an HR director's closed office becomes unintelligible to nearby workers. 

“You may know that she has someone in her office or she's talking to someone on the phone. But because it's unintelligible the human ear won't even pay attention or listen because it's nothing they can even decipher if they tried,” Westmoreland explained.

Besides improving speech privacy, sound masking reduces distractions. Without it, noise can be heard up to 65 feet away. Sound masking cuts that range to 10-12 feet. And studies show distraction rates then drop 10-40%.

You can call it white noise, but in fact, that’s any consistent background sound. Electronic sound masking is true technology.

Finding a balance of beauty and function 

According to Westmoreland, many commercial managers and owners contact her after their space opens because no one warned them about potential noise issues during design and construction.

"We get a lot of phone calls from places that just opened and no one — not their architect or their designer or their builder — brought up acoustic management to them," she said.

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However, clients who have used acoustic treatments before often educate new partners about adding them from the start. As Westmoreland said, “Once someone has it, they usually are hooked for life.”

Coworking spaces in particular struggle to control noise with more collaborative areas, members from various companies, visiting clients, and fundamentally challenging architecture.

"They tend to be noisy places — even though they're aesthetically beautiful. So they need a lot of help,” said Westmoreland.  

A solution to fit every sound and every style

With experience across offices, government buildings, healthcare, and more, Sound Masking USA offers a wide range of products to match needs and design aesthetics.

Absorption panels made of fabric, felt, foam, and other materials can make spaces not only quieter but more visually interesting. Photographic murals, faux wood or metal covers, custom logos, and signs apply absorption discreetly.

"I think that acoustic panels and making art out of them is really, really taking off. People are buying panels more and more because they can have one budget item: they can put an art budget and an acoustical budget together,” Westmoreland noted.

What is the productivity payoff of noise reduction?

Besides supporting wellbeing, controlling noise delivers real performance and satisfaction returns for coworking spaces. Studies back the bottom-line benefits:

Open offices with poor acoustics decrease productivity up to 66% due to excessive distractions. Sound masking reduces background noise interference by over 50%.

In schools utilizing sound masking, reading scores improved 10-40%. The ability to clearly hear leads to better focus, communication, and outcomes. 

83% of workers struggle to do quiet, focused work in open offices. With sound masking making conversations unintelligible beyond a close radius, concentration becomes easier.  

Employees working in quieter open-plan offices report 25% greater job satisfaction. By cutting noise pollution, spaces feel calmer and more professional.

In contact centers using sound masking, agent focus increased by 19% and calls handled per hour improved 11%. Performance metrics clearly demonstrate the impact.  

Essentially, speech privacy and lack of distractions create healthy environments where members can do their best work. Instead of loud background noise interrupting focus, teams enjoy privacy and space to think.  

The ability to have confidential conversations without interruption also promotes psychological safety. When private meetings stay private, workers feel respected.  

With measurable returns from safety to sales, managing sound generates real ROI. The performance benefits speak volumes about why noise reduction matters.

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Taking more off operators plate

Sound Masking USA aims to make the process easy for clients. Westmoreland simply asks for a floor plan, ceiling specifications, and details about noise issues. From there, she handles design, quoting, project management, and installation, no matter your coworking space location. Follow-up is priority as well.

“I'll know if they plan on expanding later. And I won't sell them a product because there's different sound masking controllers, and that's the brain of the system,” Westmoreland said. “I won't sell them a controller that's going to dead end and can't be expanded upon if they're going to expand in the future."

With expertise and full-service treatment, and an eye on future needs, Sound Masking USA helps coworking space owners combat noise with style. Schedule a free consultation to learn more!

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