Sound Of Nature: Study Shows Improved Work Productivity When Natural Sounds Play In The Office

By @hyaluronidase on
Mountain streams
IN PHOTO: Llamas graze in a valley at the base of the Sajama, an extinct volcano, and the highest peak in Bolivia at 6,500 meters, April 13, 2010. The Sajama national park is one of 22 natural reserves in Bolivia, located some 250 km southwest of La Paz. Picture taken April 13, 2010. Reuters/David Mercado

A new study has shown that playing certain music can influence the mood within a workplace. The study recommends that offices should play sounds of nature, particularly flowing mountain streams, to improve work productivity, The Independent reports.

Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute explored substitutes for "white noise" normally played in some offices to cut work distractions and make sounds inaudible at a certain distance. The experiment looked into which sound is better at masking noises and improving work productivity.

Jonas Braasch, a musicologist and acoustician from the institute, and his team wanted to test if natural sounds can mask signals better than the conventional white noise. This idea originated from his previous work in collaboration with his graduate student, Mikhail Volf, which suggested that natural sounds can improve people's focus.

To find out if the idea works, Braasch had 12 people participate in the study and asked them to do something that requires full attention while exposed to sounds. One group was exposed to white noise; another was exposed to nature sounds; and a third group was not exposed to any masking sound. 

The study showed that the sound of flowing streams was the most effective sound when it comes to improving work productivity. "The mountain stream sound possessed enough randomness that it did not become a distraction," said Alana DeLoach, who helped with the study, in the Eurekalert press release.

The researchers also noted that the participants were seen to be in a better mood with the nature sounds. The study suggests that using natural sounds to mask signals can be helpful in other locations and not just offices.

“You could use it to improve the moods of hospital patients who are stuck in their rooms for days or weeks on end,” said Braasch.  The team presented the findings of their study at the 169th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America on May 19 in Pittsburgh.

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