Without privacy, some people feel drained and find themselves without the energy and space they need to think freely and creatively.
It’s 3 P.M. and you still haven’t been able to regain your focus after lunch. You have multiple tabs open, the end-of-month report on your mind, coworkers chatting nearby, and a new Slack notification every few minutes. Sure, the GIF on Slack gives you a laugh and the camaraderie of the office makes work lively, but the bustle keeps you distracted.
We’re all overly familiar with distraction these days. It’s a daily struggle to focus on the many and diverse tasks we set out for ourselves. It’s probably no surprise then that scientific evidence disproves the so-called “multitasking myth”: it’s false that our brains can effectively focus on two or more tasks at once. However we try to convince ourselves that “Yes, we absolutely can multitask!” it is actually impossible for 97.5 percent of us. So how can we overcome distraction and harness the power of focused work? How do we optimize our brain’s architecture rather than work against it? In this article, we’ll cover a few ways you and your team can reclaim your time and attention for a more healthy, creative work life.
How to Achieve Healthier, More Creative Work
Studies show that productivity and efficiency increase when people focus on one task at a time. This is because it takes our brains time to gauge new information and engage with that information each time we switch tasks or try to refocus after getting distracted. And while we certainly cannot claim to be rid of distraction all the time, a few company policies and a bit of creative office design can help get everyone in the groove of focused work.
1. Provide Opportunities for Privacy and Quiet
Teams consist of not only different roles and responsibilities, but also many personalities that require varying environments for optimal well-being and productivity. When team members can leverage their strengths rather than battle their weaknesses, each person can be more focused and engaged in their role. Therefore, it’s important to recognize that not everyone works in the same way. While some people feel energized by the hustle and bustle of an office, others require peace and isolation. Without privacy, some people feel drained and find themselves without the energy and space they need to think freely and creatively. An office designed with retreats that offer solitude and quiet can accommodate a wider range of work styles. Leverage soundproof pods, like our Space M pod, or an acoustic privacy screen, like Cone, to give people the opportunity to concentrate more deeply, even in open office plans. Privacy and peace help the full range of personalities among us maintain the energy and creativity needed to produce excellent and innovative work.
If your team sometimes works from home, carpets, a room divider, books, curtains and other objects in the room can all help with sound absorption.
2. Add Flexibility to the (Home) Office
According to Pew Research, even those who have been able to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic face distraction. Ambient noise, including other family members on remote work or school calls, add to all the regular digital distractions. Perhaps even more than in an office, remote workers need to multitask to make it through the day. If your team sometimes works from home, carpets, a room divider, books, curtains and other objects in the room can all help with sound absorption. Placing a few items in the workspace can improve the acoustics of the room to reduce distractions from ambient noise and improve sound on conference and video calls.
Back in the office, Wall, a flexible acoustic panel, offers sound reduction, privacy, and separation when and where you need it most. Sound absorbers and privacy screens come in a variety of styles to match your office and some are even easy to install or light enough to move on the fly, so teams can nimbly react to whatever their needs are at any given moment.
3. Set Quiet Hours and Away Messages
Anyone glued to their computer screen or smartphone during the workday knows the impulsive urge to check email. The expectation for immediate, synchronous communication has only grown with technology’s firm grip on our day-to-day activities. And while messaging tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams claim to reduce email, they also add pressure for people to instantaneously respond to inquiries and messages. Developing simple company policies that reduce this pressure can help the entire office produce their most innovative and creative work.
For example, you can designate a time — even two hours a day — when the entire company agrees to not send emails, schedule meetings, or drop by colleagues’ desks. Set this as a recommendation and urge management to lead by example to show employees it really is OK to work without the distraction of email and messenger.
If setting a company-wide “quiet hours” proves too challenging because of varying schedules or because you work across time zones, you can also encourage people to set away messages on the days and times that suit them. This gives employees the flexibility to choose when they focus best and empower them to come back to emails and messages later, guilt-free.
Making collaboration enjoyable and a time in which all team members are heard can make all the difference to a productive and creative collaborative session.
4. Block Calendar Time for Deep Work
Georgetown University professor Cal Newport developed “deep work” as a strategy for intensive, distraction-free concentration that aims to produce our most innovative and valuable work. Although Newport recommends deep work every workday, that’s not realistic for most people. However, blocking out time on your calendar even once a week can help you work on your most cognitively demanding projects with vigor and, most importantly, without distractions. Scheduling the time, like you would any other meeting, both gives you a purposeful window to work on the task but also signals to colleagues that you’re not available for impromptu meetings, messages, or other distractions.
5. Make Collaboration Joyful
Finally, while reducing distractions in the workplace is key to creative work, collaboration is equally as important and fruitful for innovation and productivity. So far, we’ve talked mostly about how to combat the myth of multitasking and make it easier for individuals to focus on one task at a time. But what about when teams do come together? Making collaboration enjoyable and a time in which all team members are heard can make all the difference to a productive and creative collaborative session. Making sure the spaces we gather serve collaboration in the best ways is key. For example, reducing the reverberation time in a conference room improves speech intelligibility and reduces overall office noise. Techland, a gaming company in Wrocław, used a combination of Mute Blocks and Walls to improve the acoustics of their conference rooms and encourage better team collaboration experiences. You could also use a large, standalone meeting pod, like our Space L or Space XL pods, as a conference room that is specially designed with optimal acoustics, ventilation and lighting in mind. This is especially helpful in today’s offices, when some team members might tune in via conference or video call. Better intelligibility helps everyone feel both heard and included in collaborative team meetings and workshops.
Offices offer people an opportunity to socialize, collaborate, and exchange ideas. But giving people a respite from distractions and bustle helps them re-energize and focus when they need it most. A productive and healthy work environment that offers opportunities for peace and concentration not only reduces stress, but it also enables people with varying needs and styles to work in the ways that empower them to produce their best work. Using a combination of smart and empathetic communication policies and creative office design, individual contributors, teams, and an entire company can pursue their most ambitious endeavors.
Want a more creative and productive office space? Find out how Mute can help →
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between sound frequency and sound level? Do you know what the Lombard effect is? If you don’t have a clue, don’t worry, because today we’re carrying on with our Jargon Buster series.
In the last article, we broke down lighting industry jargon. This time, we’re talking about six of the most common terms used in acoustics. As always, we promise to avoid the overly complex, scientific mumbo-jumbo. Let’s start!
What is sound itself? Sound is a variation in air pressure that ears can detect. A sound source (for example, your mouth while speaking) emits air pressure changes that travel as a sound wave at a speed of approximately 340 meters per second. When energy from the sound source reaches the eardrum, sensitive bones within it vibrate, and the auditory nerve signals to the brain that we’re hearing something.
Did you know?
Sound waves travel much faster in water than they do in air. Sound travels 4.3 times faster in water than it does in air of the same temperature. That’s why water animals, like dolphins, can communicate over such long distances (up to 10 kilometers).
dB, or decibel, is the unit of measurement for sound pressure. It refers to what we perceive as “loudness.” So, when acoustics professionals talk about how “loud” a room is, they are referring to its decibel level. What’s most important to know here is that sound pressure isn’t measured on a linear scale because an ear’s reaction to changes in sound energy is not linear.
For example, in very quiet surroundings, even a tiny change in sound pressure is noticeable and enables us to hear a change in loudness. In a very noisy space, on the other hand, we need to increase a sound’s energy level much more to detect the difference. That’s why a decibel scale is not linear; it better mirrors the function and characteristics of our ears. Here’s another example: to increase the sound level by 10dB—from 40dB (a small refrigerator) to 50db (an average conversation) — we need 10 times more sound energy. A 10dB increase corresponds to a doubling of loudness.
Did you know?
The term “decibel” is derived from the name of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone.
When a sound wave strikes a hard surface, like concrete or glass, it is reflected and gradually loses its energy. This results in an effect called reverberation. Reverberation time is the length of time that it takes for a sound to reach complete silence after its initiation.
In rooms with excessive reverberation, we often feel uncomfortable, especially during longer conversations. Give it a try. How does a 4-way conversation in a small bathroom sound after a while? You will quickly notice that the words you hear are unclear and seem too loud. That is because different sound waves mix together as they are reflected by the hard materials in the room. Sometimes, to be heard better, you instinctively raise your voice, but it only makes things worse.
To prevent that effect and to communicate more clearly, you can make sure that office spaces, like conference rooms and rooms dedicated to making video calls, have short reverberation times.
Did you know?
The optimal reverberation time depends on the intended use of a room. For a conference room, it is recommended to keep the reverberation time between 0.5 and 1.0 seconds. In open spaces, the reverberation time should be lower, between 0.4 and 0.6 seconds, because there are more potential sound sources. Keeping the reverberation time in a big conference room too low, however, can also lead to some acoustic problems. For example, those in the back of a room might struggle to hear a speaker at the front.
Noise is a general term to describe all unwanted, unnecessary or disruptive sounds, such as background chatter, alarms, telephone conversations, buzzing electronic devices and sounds from the street. Being in a noisy environment can reduce concentration, increase workplace risks and, in the long run, even create health problems.
Did you know?
The energy of an acoustic wave can be absorbed, reflected, or transmitted. The extent to which the energy is absorbed, reflected, or transmitted depends on the barrier’s material composition. Hard surfaces (like concrete or glass) reflect acoustic energy, whereas porous materials will absorb most of it. To reduce the noise level, you have to absorb as much sound energy as possible by using specially designed porous materials.
Sound absorption is the ability of a given material to partially block the energy of a sound wave and turn it into unnoticeable thermal energy. Sound absorption is used mostly in products dedicated to limiting the reverberation time inside a room. By placing sound absorbing materials on walls, ceilings or in corners you can make your room quieter and cozier.
Absorption is measured according to the ISO 354 norm and expressed as the sound absorption coefficient αw, with a value between 0 (total reflection) and 1 (total absorption), and corresponding classes A–E. Class A represents the highest quality and E, the lowest:
Did you know?
Five of our products have Class A sound absorption properties, which means these products offer top-quality sound absorption that effectively reduces reverberations that could cause distraction:
To put it simply, sound attenuation describes a reduction in sound volume. A product that supports sound attenuation, therefore, helps reduce the energy of a sound wave as it travels through a particular space (for example, the voice of a chatty colleague from another department in your open-plan office). The rule is simple: the more you reduce the sound in different parts of the space, the more (acoustically) comfortable the space is. This comfort supports productivity because it can reduce noise and distraction. Acoustic products like walls and partitions provide high-quality sound attenuation. Instead of absorbing sound, they capture it, acting as acoustic barriers between different areas of the room.
Did you know?
We offer a wide range of products that support sound attenuation:
The Lombard effect describes our tendency to increase the volume of our voice in a loud environment. We do so because we think that we will become more audible to others. What’s interesting is that the change occurs in both loudness and other acoustic features like pitch rate and syllable duration.
Did you know?
Research on birds and monkeys has demonstrated that the effect also occurs in the animal kingdom.
Now that you know the acoustics essentials find out how to improve office acoustics with these Mute products. Or check out our article, “Well-Being Boosters: 4 Reasons to Improve the Acoustics in Your Office”, to see how acoustic solutions can influence your team’s well-being and productivity.
Noise and distractions can be tough on employees at busy workplaces that have to focus on their tasks. Given the fact that we lose about 66% of our productivity only if we hear someone talking around us. Further studies have even found out how much time per day we lose due to distractions: 86 minutes. An unbelievable number, especially if we think of the usual 8-hour full-time job. So what are the next steps for offices now? You need to find simple solutions to catch sounds before they can be jumping around the workplace. Maybe you want to consider the following solutions.
Before you bring the entire interior to your new office, make a smart plan and consider the needs of all teams
5 Ways to Reduce Noise in a Busy Office
While you’re sitting at this really important project, you just can’t put your mind to it when you are constantly hearing others discussing a task or being in phone calls. Especially in open office spaces, it is hard to find some peace and quiet for focused work. Let us give you five simple ideas to absorb the typical office sounds.
1. Be Smart When You Arrange the Office Space
Let’s start with the basics. When you place desks for employees, consider putting the teams and people who constantly work together close to each other to communicate easily. You can separate the room into compact spaces by placing acoustic walls so one team does not disturb another.
Put printers and other office machines in a separate room. The noise of those machines can be very distracting and even annoying for employees, as the sudden sound steals their focus and reduces their productivity if they always have to find their way back into the task. Do the same with coffee machines, kettles, and microwaves. Place them ideally in the office kitchen without the cool coffee bar in the middle of the office. You can also place some sound absorbing panels in the kitchen as it is often the loudest place in the entire office.
So before you bring the entire interior to your new office, make a smart plan and consider the needs of all teams, e.g. don’t place the always bubbly and chatting creatives next to the accounting team.
2. Perfect Plant Placement
Place plants all over your office space - the bigger, the better, because bigger plants can catch more of the surrounding noise. Besides the much-needed sound absorption, plants are beautiful to look at, make the space more homey and comfortable and create good vibes. It is proven that plants have a positive impact on our mood. Not only that, but they also increase the air quality and help to keep a clear mind.
3. Create Quiet Work-zones
Some people have a more challenging time working with the surrounding noise around them than others. And sometimes, it’s just good to get away from people, voices, and sounds. If there is no meeting taking place at a conference room, this can be a short-term solution to offer a quiet place to employees. A separated space dedicated to work in peace and quiet is an even better solution and works long term. Provide rooms that allow individuals to focus appropriately on their work. Ideally they should be soundproof and comfortable to spend there even few hours.
4. Soundproof Pods for Quick Meetings, Chats & Individual Work
One of the best soundproof solutions are acoustic pods. Depending on your needs, you can choose pods of different sizes. For individual work, choose Space M, for more collective tasks or small meetings consider Space L or Space XL. Talk to your teams, ask them what they need. Locate the pods wisely and strategically, so teams have easy access right next to their office area. Additionally, you can encourage every employee to use the pods frequently. That way, conversations are kept private, and other team members are not getting distracted and disturbed. Place whiteboards inside a pod for meetings, use innovative whiteboard paint surfaces on the outside of the pod to scribble invitations to use the pod on it. If you need to make changes to increase the use and make the most of it, you can constantly adjust and relocate them.
5. Clever Office Design
We all know the familiar clacking of high heels on tiled and stone floors. It's a sound that can be heard throughout the office. But with the right flooring, you can put an end to sound and loud noises. In the past, many interior decorators used to use carpets. But let's face it: when the coffee falls off the desk, the colleague is forever immortalised on the office floor. The care and cleaning of carpets are too time-consuming. Parquet and LVT floors offer an easy-care and versatile alternative.
A loud environment also increases the stress level of many employees
The health and well-being of office workers influence their productivity - this has been the subject of much research. Staff costs, including salaries and benefits, make up a large part of a company's operating costs. So anything that improves productivity also has a positive financial impact on an employer.
At the same time, most employees work in open-plan offices, which are not very popular, to say at least. 76 % of respondents said that they "hate" open offices. A loud environment also increases the stress level of many employees. As a result, many employees either quit their job or have a burn-out.
Common noises that decrease the well-being of teams
People can only tolerate noise for a certain amount of time before it becomes annoying and bothers them. Many workers work without realizing that noise in the office is affecting their productivity. Some sources of noise are:
→ Excessive background noise from mechanical and technical operations in the office, such as air conditioners, fans, printers, copiers, and even just typing on the keyboard.
→ Loud conversations, laughter, and the ringing of telephones.
→ Activity noises which are caused by loud footsteps, chat notifications, swearing because the PC doesn't want to do what the employee wants it to do.
→ Outside noises such as road traffic, sirens, trains, and planes. Of course, a certain amount of external noise is completely normal. But too much noise can interfere with concentration and productivity.
→ Use of speakers during a phone call.
When you reduce noise levels, you create a more pleasant environment for employees and customers alike.
4 Benefits of Acoustic Solutions
With all this noise around you, you need to find ways to reduce it to be able to work and deliver convincing results. Acoustic solutions can do a lot for you in the office. We will show you how to reach your acoustic goals.
1. You reduce stress and improve well-being
Open Office noise is one of the most critical factors that stress people at work. A constant information overload, non-stop noise, distractions – all of those points are highly stressful for employees. Moreover, it affects our productivity, stressing us even more. And if the stress is terrible on a day in the office, it can sometimes lead to quarrels and tensions between colleagues.
65% of 1000 UK-based office workers reported in a survey that noise in their workplace significantly impacted their ability to work in an accurate and timely manner. 44 % even stated that the noise affected their overall well-being. 40 % of them felt stressed due to those circumstances.
Noisy environments are one of the biggest complaints about workplaces. A lot of background noise increases stress by interfering with general hearing and concentration. When you reduce noise levels, you create a more pleasant environment for employees and customers alike. By placing some sound-attenuating walls and separators between desks, you can lower the level of noise. You can reach an even higher sound absorption in rooms and open space offices by using acoustic lamps, panels, or prints on the walls. And if you need absolute silence: Soundproof pods can be acoustic shelters. Use them any time you want to escape constant noise and distractions.
2. You provide privacy
A lack of privacy can be stressful, too. In an open space office, everyone sees how we work and what we are doing right at that moment. Hearing our colleagues’ conversations makes us less productive, tires us, and affects our mood. It's in our nature to feel comfortable only when we have some basic level of privacy. That's why the privacy issue is the biggest issue of open spaces. According to a survey performed in 2018 in the USA, almost 48% of respondents point it out as a significant problem.
Ease of communication is one of the main benefits of an open-plan office. Yet, it is sometimes necessary for staff to have private conversations. Acoustic panels or pods muffle sound and allow employees to have conversations without being overheard.
With acoustic screens like Wall, you can separate space, keep teams together and absorb the noise around them and their noise just as much, so they don't disturb other teams around them. Pods will provide solutions with even more options. Move away from everyone to have a quick phone call in Space S or have an effective 1-on-1 in one of our bigger pods.
3. You improve productivity
Plenty of researches show that the easiest way to stay productive is to get rid of distractions and focused only on one thing at a time. However, it isn't easy:
→ 52 % of respondents say they're distracted 1-20 per cent of the time during a workday
→ 43 % say they're distracted 21-75+ percent of the time
→ 5% say they're never distracted
Lower productivity is often associated with high noise levels because of the increased risk of distractions. Improving acoustics makes it easier for employees to concentrate, make and receive calls, and hold conversations at a comfortable volume without distracting other colleagues.
Using our soundproof pod Space M will fight all distractions. It creates spaces for individual-focused work – Quiet Zones. Also, it has been proven that even a simple change of surroundings could be a good thing to boost your creativity. That's why you should provide a variety of spaces for your employees.
4. You improve the soundscape and facilitate communication.
Acoustic solutions absorb unwanted sounds such as echoes and noise from the environment and make other sounds clearer. As a result, people in open-plan offices, restaurants, or hotel lobbies can hear and understand each other better.
A 2018 Harvard Business School study found that open-plan offices lead to a 70% decrease in face-to-face communication (Bernstein & Turban, 2018). That's because even if we talk to each other in an open space, we are not facing each other. Therefore, open office conversations are often "too casual", shallow and quick. Open office is maybe great for convenient chat, but there is a lot more to talk about at work. More serious, deeper conversations require a level of privacy that only a quiet environment can give you. That way, you can have eye-to-eye conversation without any distractions because the laptop battery is empty or the connection is low.
In that case, you need more than acoustic screens like our Wall or Cone , but a pod that provides enough space for meetings and small conferences. Using Space L or Space XL will provide quiet surroundings in an open space office. Plus, with the constant air flow you won't risk a headache and tiredness.
It’s official! An updated version of our Acoustic App is ready. Check what’s new and learn how you can test your office’s acoustics in only 10 minutes using just a mobile phone.
Mute App is an effective tool for designing an acoustic environment in your office. With just a mobile phone or a laptop in a few minutes you can measure the reverberation time inside and, what’s even more important, plan how to improve it with dedicated acoustic solutions from Mute. For 2 years Mute Acoustic App has been widely used by companies coping with acoustics problems and lately we’ve decided that it deserves to be extended and refreshed.
So, what have we changed? Let’s start with things that stand out the most – colours and the design. Entering the app you’ll quickly notice the smooth and elegant new look – with our characteristic font and colour palette. We redesigned it completely so that it matched the Mute’s visual identity that we introduced in January 2021. Now there is no doubt that the app belongs to the World of Mute.
What’s even more important, we added our newest products from the Acoustic Lighting Collection. Our new set of acoustic lamps not only provides comforting, cozy lighting but also helps to keep the space peaceful and calm thanks to its high sound absorption parameters. Now you can go to the App and test on your own how they can make a difference in your office.
We’ve also implemented some minor changes. Experienced users will notice that we expanded the database of finishing materials and furniture. Now you can load more detailed information about your interior to the App and, therefore, receive even more accurate analysis.
And if you don’t have any experience with our App, it’s a perfect time to catch up. Our fancy tool is waiting for you! Enter here to register!
We have taken the time and gathered all our creativity and effort to proudly present not only a new collection to our customers in 2021 but way more.
Every two years, Mute publishes a new catalogue. 2021 is going to be special, though. We will show you not only new solutions for making the most of your office or commercial space with our pods, acoustic lighting, or other acoustic solutions, but we will also present a new colour and fabric palette for the latest season.
Space XL for the biggest brainstorms
Space L Double for a project meetup
New Spaces and Mobility
2020 has shown companies clearly that the way we are using office spaces is changing. Conference rooms that can hold 20 people are becoming history in offices. Teams work closely together and need spaces to seclude themselves for one on one conversations or meetings. Therefore, our Space family has expanded.
Our Space S will not only be available in the standard version but also as the model Video conference so that video calls can be more goal-oriented without any distractions from outside. The new Space L Double comes with even more space for two for video conferences and focused working. Additionally, Space XL will join the pod family in 2021 and provide sound-absorbing space for up to six people.
No worries, our previous versions and sizes of our pods will still be available as we aim to meet all our customers’ needs.
At the same time, flexibility has become a huge must in offices. Therefore, we improved the functionality of our pods to the extent that will surprise you. You can now easily rearrange your office with only two people by moving the pods wherever you like, thanks to additional casters. This will help to optimise your office for a better co-working environment. Tweak the office space and the location of your pods and learn what works best for you and your company.
Why stop with widening a product range we already have and not add a new one to the Mute family? To bring even more comfort to commercial spaces, we brought acoustic solutions and lighting into symbiosis by designing a collection of acoustic lamps. These will provide comfortable lighting or bring coziness and modern design to spaces and create a noise-resistant environment due to their high sound absorption. We will offer four acoustic lamps – Bell, Loop, Line, and Mist – all pioneering in acoustics and beautiful in the craft. Bell and Loop come in three sizes, three and two light source options, and dozens of fabric possibilities. Line comes in six sizes and two light source options, with a wide upholstery selection, while Mist has two pendant and two-floor sizes and a dedicated selection of fabrics to bring an element of the mysterious for every room.
Bell and Loop are available now and will be joined by the offer by Mist and Line in March 2021.
We all know that we calm the atmosphere in the space not only through high-performance acoustic products but also through well-balanced colours. Therefore, we decided to bring also a new colour palette for our products. Our new selection of earthy tones meets warm yellow, dusk blue, and ceramic red to bring a wide range of choices and bring harmony to every space.
Are you curious to have a closer look at our products for 2021? Don’t wait and see our acoustic solutions that will help you create the space of your dreams and spread an elegant and cozy atmosphere in there, and order your sound solutions in January 2021 already.