Sound Thinking

A new breed of workplace products aims to block ambient noise and boost productivity.

The recent eclipse of the cubicle by more open and informal workplaces is generally seen as a positive development. But there is one undeniable drawback of the open-plan office: noise—or, as it is euphemistically called in the industry, “conversational distraction”—which can increase worker stress and reduce productivity. Headphones and noise-masking devices are the go-to remedies, but they’re an imperfect fix. Ideally, employees should be able to focus without losing the possibility of quick communication with coworkers. Thankfully, manufacturers are coming up with inventive solutions. Some, like Buzzispace’s nifty Buzzihood booth and Vitra’s Workbay chair, give individ­uals instant acoustic privacy; others, such as Turnstone’s Campfire collection or LK Hjelle’s Duo sofa, offer comfier breakout solutions, for small-group collaboration away from the general workplace din.

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