Soundscaping revolution: Plantronics rolls out Habitat
Long-time Catchword client and audio pioneer Plantronics has unveiled an innovative solution to the chaos of the open office: Habitat Soundscaping. Using nature-inspired audio and visuals, coupled with responsive software, Habitat transforms dysfunctional offices into peaceful spaces where people can focus and collaborate. The Catchword team worked closely with the company to develop the name for the new service.
“Habitat will improve workplace happiness and productivity,” said Catchword co-founder Laurel Sutton. “Plus it’s really cool. Even the site’s landing page inspires calm focus.”
Plantronics was motivated to develop the solution when it moved to an open plan for its Santa Cruz office. They discovered that while an open plan can promote collaboration (and save money), the frequent disruptions of a dense, loud workspace with no psychological privacy often decrease productivity and sense of well being.
The company’s experience is common, and the negative impact of open office distraction is significant (no news to most folks who work in them). According to U.S. and Scandinavian research cited by the company,
- on average, employees take 23 minutes to regain focus after an interruption
- 53% of workers are bothered by others when trying to stay on track
- open office workers are two times more likely to take sick days compared to those working in traditional offices
With 70% of offices using an open plan, other companies had tried to solve the noise problem by masking it with white or pink noise, but Plantronics workers found it fatiguing and stressful.
Research has shown that a connection to nature in the workplace improves mood, memory, and cognitive functioning while reducing absenteeism. So the company turned to natural sights and sounds for their solution, combining waterfall sculptures, sound design, and virtual landscapes to create a multisensory experience.
“I’ve experienced it myself in the Plantronics office, and the difference is amazing,” said Catchword’s Sutton. Digital skylights and windows display images of nature while hidden speakers broadcast sounds of running water. Adaptive software recognizes distracting speech and adjusts the sounds in the surrounding areas to minimize disturbance.
“It’s not surprising that serene landscapes and the gentle shh of a stream make a more pleasant setting than fluorescent cell yell,” said Catchword principal and co-founder Maria Cypher. “What’s amazing is how Plantronics is using these qualities to transform the workplace.”
“We wanted to develop a name that expresses this comprehensive, fundamental change to a more organic environment,” she continued. “Habitat was a natural.”
Tech media also seem excited, with at least one speculating about whether Habitat Soundscaping could become a bigger business for Plantronics than headsets. Cypher explained, “Habitat could revolutionize indoor spaces — schools, shopping malls, government buildings — not just offices. We can’t wait to see the impact it will have.”