The collaboration and camaraderie of open-plan offices are great, but the noise level can sometimes get in the way of getting stuff done. I've worked in open-plan offices for the past four years and have often turned to white noise to achieve auditory privacy. Recently, I came across a fabulous website called myNoise.net that is truly the best when it comes to productivity-enhancing sound generators.
myNoise.net was created by Dr. Ir. Stéphane Pigeon, a signal processing Ph.D. engineer and a professional sound designer. He describes myNoise.net as a “multi-purpose noise generator that takes your personal hearing thresholds into account.” What’s different about Dr. Pigeon’s site from other places online for white noise is that he actually goes out and records and mixes sounds for each of his “soundscapes.” His rich and complex generators have seriously helped me to be more productive, and I'd like to share a few of my favorites with you all.
We often think of rain sounds when we think of white noise, and myNoise.net has a whole bunch to choose from. You can’t really go wrong with any of them, but I like Rain on a Tent. Its steady pitter-patter does an amazing job of blocking noise, and it has a bit more variation from standard rain-based sound generators like SimplyRain. I like to use this generator when the noise levels get particularly high near my desk.
One of the really neat things about myNoise.net is that you can combine generators to create even more layered soudscapes. All you need to do is open each generator in a separate tab (those who donate to the site can skip the brief waiting period). A favorite of mine is to combine Shortwaves and Palm Garden. The radio/static generator has just enough of in the way of voices to settle into white noise without being distracting (Cafe Restaurant is good for this, too). Add in the gentle stream and wind sounds from Palm Garden and you've got a soundscape that both centers and energizes—great for when you need to jam out on creating long passages of text.
You can combine as many generators as you want, and many actually harmonize with each other. A trio that I frequently visit is Mr. Rhodes, Ferryboat, and Ocean Waves. This group combines some beautiful, soulful piano notes with the regular crash of waves and just a few interjections of seagulls. It's a bit melancholy, but I find it to be particularly soothing when I'm working on a tedious task like scouring rows of data in spreadsheets.
There are tons more generators to explore on the site—highlights include Data Center, Singing Bowls, Canyon, Sailboat, and Ice World. Keep mixing and matching to find your favorite combo and settings. And don't be surprised if you find yourself less distracted in your open plan office!