Open plan offices don’t work for anything other than cost savings – in fact, they kill productivity. Such is the conclusion of the largest study to date, of more than 40,000 workers in 300 U.S. office buildings. The results, have been published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, and pointed to the following conclusion:
“Enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of IEQ (Indoor Environmental Quality), particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues. Benefits of enhanced ‘ease of interaction’ were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration.”
It isn’t just the noise and the interruptions that cause people to hate open-plan offices. According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal:
“All of this social engineering has created endless distractions that draw employees’ eyes away from their own screens. Visual noise, the activity or movement around the edges of an employee’s field of vision, can erode concentration and disrupt analytical thinking or creativity.”
While there is no easy way to block out the visual pollution, he latest headsets are very much designed to counter the barriers to productivity present in open plan offices. Moderating the adverse audio effects of open plan is now entirely possible with noise cancelling headsets. The idea is to improve the quality of the sound you want and to reduce the impact of the background noise you don’t want. Arriving at AV News HQ, within 24 hours of each other, we have the latest ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) headset offerings from Logitech and Sennheiser. Here is what we found…
Logitech announced the launch of the Logitech Zone Wireless and Logitech Zone Wireless Plus Headsets. The Zone series of headsets delivers superior sound quality so users can take conference calls, listen to music, or block out distractions with active noise cancellation (ANC). As the first headsets that offer Qi wireless charging, Zone Wireless provides convenient charging at the user’s desk.
“Many professionals bring their own headphones to work, however they do not address the typical needs of an open office,” said Philippe Depallens, vice president and general manager of Logitech Audio. “Logitech Zone Wireless is designed with contemporary style, supreme comfort, and audio call clarity, as well as active noise cancellation and great sound quality for music, whenever and wherever you need it.”
We set up a test scenario in the AV News offices and using a mixed environment of PCs, MacBooks and iPhones in a meeting room scenario. The first thing to comment on is the ease of set up we have come to expect from Logitech. No complex instruction manuals – just use the simple directions on the box and you will be fine. Bluetooth pairing was simple and virtually instantaneous, the supplied dongle worked faultlessly, and the headset has just one button, pressable ear cups and a microphone boom to raise and lower to mute / unmute the unit.
ACN (Active Noise Cancellation)
The Zone Wireless reflects modern minimalist design trends. The soft leatherette ear pad material and silicone padded headband make Zone Wireless comfortable to wear all day. The headset offer up to 15 hours of available talk time and music. A really useful audio alert tells the user how many hours of charge are left in the unit.
The Zone Wireless interface is incredibly easy to use while on calls or listening to music. Simply push the main button in the center of the ear cup to answer/end calls or play/pause while listening to music. Users can also mute the headset by raising the microphone boom. At the end of the working day, users simply fold Zone Wireless and place it on a Qi wireless charger or connect it to the included USB cable for quick and easy charging.
Zone Wireless uses Easy-Switch technology to connect and switch easily between a smartphone and a computer through Bluetooth or through the Bluetooth dongle. Once paired with the downloadable companion app, Logitech Tune, users can control the headset using the app, from activating the mute or ANC functions, to adjusting the sound equaliser for tuning the bass performance to your own liking, as well as providing firmware upgrades.
But what about the Active Noise Cancellation? Zone Wireless eliminates some of the background noise so the user can focus on calls, but not all by any means. Users have up to a 30m /100ft range, as well as a noise cancelling microphone for greater call clarity. We found that call clarity posed no problems in our trials despite a degree of background noise ingress. For those users who prefer to play music while making or receiving a call we found that the default is to maintain volume as the vice and music at similar levels although the caller cannot hear thr music.
For users look at integrating Zone Wireless into a complete UC solution, the product is Certified for Skype for Business and supported by Microsoft Teams. Logitech has worked closely with its Collaboration Partners including Google Cloud, Zoom, Fuze, Unify, TrueConf, and StarLeaf to ensure a seamless user experience. Zone Wireless will also support some of the most popular collaboration, conferencing and voice applications like BlueJeans, Cisco WebEx, Cisco Jabber, and GoToMeeting.
But what about the all-important price factor? Logitech Zone Wireless with Bluetooth available in at 219.99€ in Europe. Logitech Zone Wireless Plus with the Logitech Unifying Plus Receiver has the same features and design as Zone Wireless but uses the world’s first single USB receiver that can connect to a Logitech Unifying mouse, keyboard and Zone Wireless Plus headset. Logitech Zone Wireless Plus for 299.99€ in Europe. Logi Tune companion app is available on iStore and Google Play store.