There's been a lot of negative buzz about the distractions and productivity losses open-plan offices enable, and software company Autodesk may have found the ideal solution by piping in pink noise. The sound is the same frequency as human voices, enabling employees to tune out their coworkers' conversations and get work done.
People weren’t sure what was different, but they knew something was wrong.
At first, Autodesk didn't tell its team about the system. It ran for three months solid; managers then disabled the system for a day to see if it had any impact.
"We were surprised at how many complaints we got," said Autodesk facilities manager Charles Rechtsteiner to the New York Times. "People weren't sure what was different, but they knew something was wrong. They were being distracted by conversations 60 feet away. When the system's on, speech becomes unintelligible at a distance of about 20 feet."
To boost productivity in your open-plan office, consider playing pink noise in your headphones as you work.