The sound of mountain streams playing in the workplace improves productivity, study says

It could also help keep confidential whispered discussions unheard by others

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Offices should play the sound of flowing mountain streams to improve productivity among workers, and also help to keep confidential whispered discussions unheard by others, a study has recommended.

Many modern open-plan offices are said to use electronic sound masking systems to make speech unintelligible beyond a certain distance, reducing the number of distractions and giving employees more privacy.

But in an experiment replacing this so-called “white noise” with natural sounds in order to increase productivity, it was found that the gentle sound of water trickling down a hillside worked best.

“The mountain stream sound possessed enough randomness that it did not become a distraction. This is a key attribute of a successful masking signal,” said Alana DeLoach, who assisted in the study by Jonas Braasch, an acoustician and musicologist at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.

Professor Braasch said: “You could use it to improve the moods of hospital patients who are stuck in their rooms.” He will present his team’s findings at the annual meeting of  the Acoustical Society of America in Pittsburgh.