Open offices were designed to increase collaboration and communication between colleagues but sometimes the only thing they seem to create are headaches.
Whether it’s the sound of the printer mid-way through another extended print run, the telephone ringing six desks away or Carole from accounts banging on about her mother-in-law, open-plan offices can be a nightmare for those of us who require a little quiet to concentrate.
Picking between the 5-best headphones for an office environment isn’t just about being more productive at work but it can be an act of self-care, too.
And it turns out that it’s evolution that makes it so difficult for some of us to focus. Psychologist Dr Max Blumberg told Grazia Daily: ‘We are the ancestors of people who reacted to noise and danger, those who didn’t react to the threat coming around the corner died out pretty quickly.’
Dr Blumberg goes on to say that our instinct to react to noisy stimuli (the printer, the telephone and Carole, for example) is something we can’t switch off. Something that was so key to our survival thousands of years ago is now an irritant in open office environments. Thanks lizard brain…
One easy way of combating noise in the workplace is to wear headphones. We’ve listed 5 of the most suitable noise-cancelling headphones to buy below but you may not even need active-noise cancelling as pretty much all on-ear and over-ear headphones benefit from some form of passive noise-cancellation: by pressing against your ears the headphones will naturally block out some incoming sounds.
It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that some anti-noise cancelling headphones are far better at blocking out low-level noise like background chatter or traffic noise than close-proximity or high-pitched sounds.
It means that loud conversations very close to your desk may be reduced but probably won’t be entirely blocked out. Playing music will help. One tip that we’ve found useful is downloading a white noise app and playing that whenever you need to concentrate.
And you don’t just have to buy a pair for work. Enjoy the benefits in your everyday life, too. After all, there’s usually a Carole in the gym, on the train, in the supermarket or on the beach.
Pair your headphones with sweat-resistant covers and you can wear them in the gym or during exercise. Take them on holiday, too, or wear them on your daily commute and pass the time listing to your favourite playlist or podcast without the worry of sweat or makeup damage.
Best Headphone for Reducing Noise and Making Calls: Bose Noise Cancelling 700
- Superb noise-cancellation when receiving or making phone calls
- Good for blocking out background chatter
- Battery lasts 20 hours on a 2-hour charge
- Comfortable and attractive to wear
- Controls offer active noise-cancellation (ANC) from 0 (very mild ANC right to 10 which is full ANC) which gives flexibility in an office where sound levels might vary.
- Activate conversation mode and you’ll be able to hear people talking directly to you without taking them off your ears.
- Alexa and Google Assistant supported
Rtings.com make a good comment when they suggest that if you’re looking for an ANC headphone to make phone calls with in a noisy office, then the Bose 700s are your best bet. However, if you’re after pure ANC alone then you should get the Sony WH1000XM3s as they have superior sound quality.
Best headphone for Active Noise Cancellation: Sony WH1000XM3
- Touch sensitive controls rather than buttons for easy navigation between settings.
- Noise-cancellation can be switched permanently on so that you don’t have to play audio if you want to block out background noise. Ideal if you find it difficult to focus to music.
- There’s full battery charge in 3-hours. Battery lasts for up to 30 hours and a 10-minute boost of power gives an impressive 5-hours of usage.
- WhatHiFi? praised the XM3’s ability to block out office noise something which it called ‘one of the trickiest feats to pull off’. It went on to write ‘In short, these Sony’s block out more of the outside world than any rival, and replace that noise with some of the best audio quality available at this price.’
Best Headphone for iOS Functionality: Beats Studio3 Wireless
- Fast fuel gives you 3 hours of battery on a 10-minute charge.
- 22-hours of battery using wireless and up to 40-hours wired mean you can maximise playback when at a desk. Although, this isn’t the case if you’re not using iOS. Apple’s W1 chip gives iPhone, iPad and MacBook users an advantage here.
- Touch controls on the right earcup for easy use
- Decent active-noise cancelling although, not as good as Bose or Sony.
Best Headphone for Passing Through Ambient Noise: Bowers and Wilkins PX7
- Full range 33mm drivers for detailed and superb sound quality.
- Up to 30-hours battery on a single charge
- 15-minutes charge gives 5-hours of playback.
- 24-bit high resolution streaming
- Wear sense technology means they start when you put them on and stop when you take them off.
- Ideally for an office environment, ambient pass-through mode allows certain sounds to pass through such as voices or announcements. This gives you the choice as to the level of background noise you wish to block out.
Best Headphone if You Regularly Lose Yours in the Office: Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless
- Tile tracker means you can find where you’ve left your headphones. Handy if you walk around a lot and visit other desks or offices.
- Superior sound quality
- Smart pause stops audio playing when you take them off
- Three levels of ANC with a Transparent Hearing feature that allows you to still listen to announcements or noises.
- Works alongside Siri and Google Assistant
- Stylish modern design that would fit well in a business or corporate environment.
- Comfortable earcups for extended use.
They say that nobody should suffer in silence but sometimes even that’s preferable to suffering in an office environment. What do you do to combat noise in the workplace?
Drop a comment below and let us in on your secret.