Simply put, speech privacy is the inability of an unintentional listener to understand another person's conversation. So, people with a lack of speech privacy are overhearing lots of conversations that they shouldn't be, which is, understandably, quite annoying to employees.
When we look at acoustical related complaints of office workers, we find that most complaints center around the idea that others can hear our conversations, or that we can hear others' conversations (a lack of speech privacy). Rarely is the problem that there is simply too much noise in the environment.
As an example, many people have no problem working in a coffee shop or other public place, but once they are in an office, the expectation of speech privacy is very different, and indeed the reality of speech privacy is very different as well. In the office, we are able to understand every word that our neighbors are yelling into their speakerphone, but in the coffee shop it didn't seem to matter.
So when we define speech privacy, there must be an element of intelligibility. It is not practical to eliminate all conversational sounds in a workplace, but it is certainly not impossible to significantly reduce intelligible speech throughout a workplace.
Did you know?
Lack of speech privacy is the number one complaint among office workers. As illustrated by the graphic to the right, The Center for the Build Environment in San Francisco surveyed more than 25,000 workers in more than 2,000 buildings to determine what the key environmental issues were for workers. Their results mirrored those determined over the last 20 years in similar surveys - specifically that of the architect designed features surveyed, acoustics (i.e. the lack of of speech privacy) was considered to be the most objectionable.
Benefits of Sound Masking
Reduce noise distractions
Make it easier for reception to take calls even in a loud environment
Guests trying to conduct business can do so with less noise distractions
Protect Speech Privacy
Sound masking can be placed in lobbies so other guests cannot hear sensitive information being shared at the check-in lobby such as
credit card information and personal contact information
Sound masking in guest rooms gives guests peace of mind that conversations in their rooms stay in their rooms
Guests are often on business, so increasing speech privacy is an added bonus
Improve Sleep of Guests
Placing sound masking in guest rooms will help reduce noise distractions from adjacent rooms and hallways and improve guests' sleep