White Noise for Office vs Sound Masking

Distracting office noise is a productivity killer. Unlike white noise, sound masking actually helps to make the office a peaceful place to work.

The modern office can be a noisy place where distractions are a standard part of the acoustic landscape. To reduce the cognitive burden of working amidst constant distractions, some office workers have added more noise into the mix with the help of a white noise machine. 

Although white noise machines can work to some extent, they are simply a band-aid solution to a problem that requires more nuanced solutions. One alternative to white noise machines, or just trying to cope with the noise, is sound masking.

Key highlights

  • White noise contains all frequencies at the same intensity, whereas sound masking is calibrated for certain frequencies, making it hardly noticeable. 
  • Unlike white noise, sound masking is better suited for mitigating distracting sounds at the office.
  • By making background speech unintelligible, office sound masking can improve productivity, employee well-being, and privacy at work.

Does white noise work? 

White noise refers to a type of sound that contains all audible frequencies at equal intensity. In an office setting, people use white noise to mask background sounds, such as loud conversations, notifications, and distractions in the office soundscape

However, white noise is typically not something that you would listen to just for fun, as it resembles the static sound of an old analog television. Still, some people have found that playing white noise is helpful for concentrating in noisy environments or sleeping with tinnitus. Yet, for most individuals, white noise has no beneficial qualities other than replacing a distracting sound with a louder, static one. 

One potential downside of playing loud white noise is that it becomes too audible and, as a result, distracting in itself. Because all frequencies are played at an equal volume, using white noise to block only certain sounds is an excessive solution that may do more harm than good. For instance, the range of frequencies in human speech is much narrower than those of white noise. Playing white noise loud enough would eventually make your colleagues less audible, but you would also irritate everyone at the workplace with a loud wall of sound.

Fortunately, there are better ways to reduce distracting sounds in an office setting than white noise, most notably sound masking technology.

Sound masking technology

Unlike white noise, which fires at equal levels on all frequencies, sound masking technology emits ambient sounds made to match the frequency of human speech. Therefore, sound masking produces much less noticeable sounds than less sophisticated white noise machines. Sound masking is much more discreet and does not contribute to polluting the office with more noise. 

Instead of equipping the office with multiple white noise machines or sound masking systems, the Framery Office Sound Masking System™ is built-in to all Framery One Compact, Framery Four and Framery Six office pods. 

With an effective sound masking radius of 5 m / 16 ft, the system can cover large areas when the pods are scattered around the office and close to where people work. There is a significant benefit to combining Framery office pods with their sound masking system and distributing both throughout an office space.

Framery Office Sound Masking System™

Reduce distractions and boost productivity with Framery office pods

White noise can help reduce the intensity of other distracting sounds in the environment, such as the sound of colleagues speaking nearby. Unfortunately, it can end up becoming a distraction in itself and add more racket to the already noisy office. After all, for white noise to work effectively in blocking other distracting sounds, it needs to be at a volume level that can be all too audible for the people trying to concentrate nearby.

Here is how sound masking works better than white noise at bringing peace to the office:

  • Reduced distractions. Intelligible speech can be extremely distracting, especially in focus-intensive office work. By reducing the intelligibility of speech, the sound masking system in Framery pods improves the office space outside of the pods.
  • Improved productivity. With fewer distractions to their work, sound masking improves overall productivity by making office noise less audible.
  • More privacy. Sound masking makes speech less intelligible by adding a background sound in matching frequencies. A more peaceful working environment supports the privacy of office workers – not to mention the industry-leading soundproofing inside the Framery pods where workers can discuss even the most confidential matters.
  • Inconspicuous background noise. White noise can be overwhelming when it becomes too audible at louder volumes, whereas sound masking noise blends into the background and is easily ignored.  
  • Well-being at work. With fewer distractions in the soundscape, office workers’ concentration is improved while their cognitive load and stress levels are remarkably reduced.

Equip your office with enough Framery office pods and booths to offer private and distraction-free working and meeting spaces at the workplace. Thanks to their superior soundproofing, the pods can be placed where they are needed the most, even in otherwise noisy surroundings. Download the Framery Pod Placement guide to turn the workplace into a high-performing office.

Our guide to building a high-performing office

FAQ about white noise for offices

What is white noise?

White noise is a type of constant sound often used to block other sounds in the environment. Apps and devices, such as white noise machines, generate a steady, uniform sound that is consistent across all audible frequencies. In addition to drowning out other sounds, white noise is used to promote relaxation and sleep, often in noisy surroundings.

Do white noise machines for office work?

A white noise machine can help to drown audible distractions when played loud enough. However, there is a risk that the white noise that is supposed to mitigate distractions becomes one itself. Meanwhile, sound masking is more discreet as it focuses on blocking only certain frequencies in the environment.

What is the difference between sound masking and white noise?

Sound masking and white noise can be used for the same purpose, to block distracting sounds in the environment. Whereas white noise does this by replacing the distracting sound with sheer volume, sound masking focuses on specific frequencies while allowing other sounds to remain audible. In an office setting, sound masking is used to reduce the intelligibility of speech and other distracting noises, while white noise is better suited to create background sound to help people sleep, for instance.

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