While you may not read a lot about noise pollution as an environmental concern; there’s little question that the world has become a lot noisier. As if loud neighbors, construction sites and barking dogs weren’t annoying enough, we now have a growing list of technology culprits adding to the din.  Car alarms and boom cars are just some of them, along with the proliferation of smartphones that make it difficult to escape someone’s ringtone or conversation.

Studies point to the far-ranging effects of noise pollution, which at their worst can actually impact your health and state of mind. In addition to loss of hearing, noise can affect your blood pressures, cause sleep disturbance, impact cognitive ability and more. The problem has become so serious that there now are organizations such as NoiseOff.org dedicated to tackling the problem by providing recommendations on how to reduce noise in our everyday life and communities.

With all this noise, it’s a wonder we can concentrate; and in fact, employee inability to focus due to noise is a problem for companies from small businesses to large enterprises. Noise and speech privacy are the biggest complaints of office workers, according to a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment. Harvard Business Review reports in “Noise at the Office: How to Cope” that research indicates that office noise disrupts concentration, decreases productivity and increases stress.

Everyone can ‘hear you now’ in the open office

Nowhere is workplace noise more of a problem than in today’s open-space office environments. While the absence of walls aimed to encourage and facilitate collaboration, open-space offices are in fact proving to do just the opposite. They have had the unintended consequence of decreasing the ability to focus. And ironically, as the open-space office has grown in popularity, collaboration has become less likely. The past five years have seen collaboration decrease by 20 percent, reports a Gensler 2013 Workspace Study.

Can’t escape noise on the go

With today’s mobile devices and apps, you and your small business team can work anywhere. However, working outside the office introduces more variable, unpredictable background noises. Try working in a coffee shop or airport lounge and see how much peace and quiet you get. Furthermore, while many of your team may work all or part of the week from home where they may have to contend with noise from tree trimmers down the street or a neighbor building a deck.

Sometimes work requires spending time on site at a customer or client, where you have no control over your environment. This was a problem for Pariveda Solutions, an IT company in Dallas, whose consultants work on site during project implementations. Each site poses different challenges for consultants in terms of privacy and noise interference when making calls or participating in conference calls.

Keeping noise under control

Since open-space offices are not going away; and employees want flexible and mobile work arrangements, your small business needs to provide solutions to enable your team to thrive in these new work environments. In the office, consider creating spaces where employees can conduct a call or meet to conference without surrounding noise and distractions. Spiceworks, the IT social business network, for example, created private call booths so that its sales and account reps who worked in a “classic sales pit” had a quiet place to go when they were on a call.

In noisy situations both in and out of the office, a headset can help to cancel out background noise, create your own private space enabling you to enjoy your preferred sounds and ensure audio clarity on a call. Among Plantronics offerings is the recently announced Voyager Focus UC Bluetooth headset. It enables your employees to move seamlessly between PC and smartphone calls and between work and entertainment. The new headset features on-demand Active Noise Canceling (ANC) so users can focus on calls or work and precision tuned triple-mic with enhanced DSP for superior background noise cancelling.

You don’t need to let noise get the best of your small business. Work with your team to come up with a sound solution.

Neil Hooper, Plantronics Voyager Focus UC Headset

Even in a plane at 39,000 feet, you can conduct a meeting without noise distractions using the Voyager Focus UC over Skype for Business and onboard WiFi.