One thing many people have not missed while holed up at home is the distraction of noise in the office, especially as they have become accustomed to a home office environment that they can adjust to suit their own needs and preferences.
A return to the office will require the best earbuds and headphones for work to counteract the dramatic increase in ambient volume—the hum of the communal refrigerator, the grind of the coffee maker and the conversations of colleagues on a break. And all of that comes after a commute filled with the abrasive honking of traffic or the rumbling of public transport.
Noise cancelling headphones and earbuds can offer a perfect solution to these issues and ease the transition back into the office environment. Designed to neutralise ambient noise rather than mask it, the best earbuds for work feature active noise cancelling technology to help you maintain strong levels of productivity and stay focused on the work at hand. Here’s how.
Unlike traditional headphones, active noise cancelling headphones (ANC) don’t require turning your music up louder to mask exterior noise. Instead, they detect exterior ambient sound through tiny microphones embedded in the headphones’ earpiece and emit a frequency in the opposite direction of the ambient noise frequency, essentially neutralising it instead of simply masking it with other sound.
They create a bubble of protection for your ears and allow greater focus on the task at hand. The level of isolation can also be adjusted on some pairs of noise cancelling headphones, letting in whatever amount of outside ambient noise is needed. Even if you’re not listening to anything through the ANC headphones, you can still find some relief by wearing them, as wireless noise cancelling headphones alone can greatly reduce ambient office noise.
Because many of us have gotten used to the lack of office distractions while working from home, one of the key challenges of transitioning back to the office is staying focused and productive. This fact is cited by the World Health Organization, who wrote in a report that “it is evident that when a task involves auditory signals of any kind, noise at an intensity sufficient to mask or interfere with the perception of these signals will also interfere with the performance of the task. A novel event, such as the start of an unfamiliar noise, will also cause distraction and interfere with many kinds of tasks”.
Noise cancelling headphones and earbuds can help keep office distractions at bay. A smoother workday without the stress of noisy distractions can enable better productivity and greater focus on the task at hand, particularly for people operating in open-floor plans, where others may be moving about and conversing throughout the day.
Some new technologies and ways of operating that were developed during the pandemic are also returning to the office, and many are a perfect fit for noise cancelling headphones. For instance, Zoom has become a popular video platform for digital meetings and events both inside and outside the office in recent years. In fact, according to the BBC, sales for Zoom during the last quarter of 2020 were up 370% compared to the same period a year before. In 2021, the company expects sales to rise more than 40% for a total of $3.7 billion.
Whether workers are using Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet or some other audio-dependent communication platform, maintaining a clean and uncluttered audio connection is an essential part of their work. This underlines the importance of using the best earbuds and headphones for phone calls and video calls, which are enhanced considerably by noise cancelling technology. Without the quiet of a home office, it will be important to utilise technology like noise cancelling headphones to speak clearly with customers, coworkers and anyone else you may be communicating with online.
Traditional earbuds or headphones can do a great job masking outside sounds through a tight seal or the music you play through it. However, when ambient office or other external sounds increase and penetrate your bubble of concentration, the common reaction is to turn up the volume, potentially overloading your eardrums.
Active noise cancelling headphones and the best earbuds for phone calls can negate that need, effectively neutralising that intruder. Cancelling noise at an appropriate level can make all the difference by providing long-term protection that also keeps you engaged and productive for longer periods. This is particularly true for people who have spent more than a year away from a traditional office environment, as workplace noise may seem louder than ever.
“Noise is a nonspecific stressor that activates the autonomous nervous system and endocrine signalling”, according to a 2018 report published by the US National Library of Medicine. Consistently high levels of ambient noise can eventually lead to “non-auditory effects”, including chronic stress.
With many workers spending a minimum of 40 hours per week in the office, there’s significant potential each day to absorb this added stress, perhaps without even realising it. Noise cancelling headphones allow you to ward off some of that through better control of your audio environment. With the reduction in stress comes a bevy of benefits across the board, including greater productivity and focus.
Returning to the office after being away for some time may yield many benefits for businesses, but it’s important not to let the downsides cancel them out. Instead, consider integrating active noise cancelling headphones and earbuds into your office setup to ease the transition and combine the upsides of a home office with those of an in-person one.