I've recently read a few interesting articles on the non-auditory factors involved in determining the degree of annoyance or disturbance we experience when we hear a sound...in other words, what turns ‘a sound’ into ‘a noise.’
One of these is the way we feel about the sound itself. After all, you can crank the volume for one of your favourite songs and though the decibel reading might not mean good things for your hearing down the road if you do it too often, the sound itself doesn't cause you any distress. In fact, you wouldn't even call it ‘noise,’ whereas someone who doesn't like that particular song might.
As annoyed as many of us feel when we get a sales call in the middle of dinner (or, in my mother’s case, the middle of one of her favorite TV shows, Coronation Street), the people who work in contact centers are also the ones to whom we turn when we have a problem.
In a paragraph or two, this will make sense...
We're frequently asked to review and comment on specifications written for sound masking systems. Some of these documents are proprietary, don't include any performance standards or – even worse – are inconsistent to the point that no system could ever hope to meet the requirements outlined. This last variety is the type I've taken to calling 'Frankenspec.'
It’s an excellent question and one that I was only too happy to answer, knowing that some providers promote a ‘set it and forget it’ approach, while others claim there’s no need to adjust the system at all.
A short while ago, I was interviewed by Canadian Facility Management & Design (CFM&D) magazine, together with another industry expert, Kana Ganesh, senior acoustics, noise and vibration engineer for Stantec Consulting.
I don’t know how Mr. Ganesh felt, but, for me, being interviewed on camera is always a little more nerve-racking than print or radio. But the subject was workplace acoustics, which is near and dear to my heart and a pressing issue for a lot of organizations these days, especially given the surge in designs that bear striking resemblance to pre-1950s open plans.