HMRC experiments with ‘sound masking’ to reduce staff distraction

Tax agency spends £30,000 on proof of concept

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HM Revenue and Customs is experimenting with the use of “sound masking” technology to help minimise the extent to which staff are distracted by background noise.

The tax agency has dedicated £30,000 to undertake a proof-of-concept exercise in which the kit will be installed in several areas of its offices in Croydon. Peterborough-based tech firm Remark Group has been awarded a six-month deal to fulfil the work.

According to the contract it has signed with HMRC, the company has been asked to install technology that can provide “a low-level, unobtrusive background sound to [the] environment to reduce the intelligibility of human speech and reduce noise distractions in the office”.

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The kit in question should not only help minimise the disturbance caused by background noise, but also help ensure the privacy of workers’ conversations.

The contract added: “The supplier will install a speaker system to add professionally engineered sounds that sound similar to airflow, to help mask the other noises in the environment, making them less distracting. The supplier’s solution will achieve conversation privacy and improve productivity in the workplace.”

Remark Group – whose engagement with HMRC runs from 13 January until 13 July – is expected to deliver “a robust and feature-rich system that will be easy to control and maintain, with users able to adjust system settings via an easy-interface front panel”.

The technology will be piloted via installations at three locations at the department’s offices at 1 Ruskin Square: a “semi-enclosed” meeting space on the building’s ninth floor; an enclosed meeting room on the floor below; and “the open-plan focused work space of the debt management team”, who are also located on floor eight.


Sam Trendall

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