SAN FRANCISCO. (CBS SF) — During the pandemic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, about 50% of workers now log in from their homes, or apartments. Many find it hard to concentrate. It turns out the home office with everyone else sheltering in place at home can be quite distracting.
“I have a 12-year old daughter and she’s at home more because she’s distance learning. It creates a little bit more noise than there was,” said Darin Wilson of Petaluma.
“I am distracted by singular noises,” said Brandy Rose from Northern California. What distracts her? “A faucet dripping for instance, or maybe my cat’s feet walking on the wooden floor,” she said.
James Watson also has a small child who is adding new noise to his remote home office.
“And I have a wife as well who didn’t respect social distancing and would just barge into whatever room I was trying to work” explained Watson. He told KPIX 5 that he never thought he would miss the noise of the office, the camaraderie of the people, or just a simple “hello”.
Help is on the way it’s an online interactive office noise generator called “The Calm Office.” It provides 10 different office sounds that you mix to your own liking.
“One slider where you can put the air conditioner noise, another with the coffee machine, the printer, the chatty colleagues, the keyboards where you are typing like a madman,” explained Professor Stephane Pigeon.
Pigeon is the brains behind the operation. He is located in Belgium and did a zoom interview with KPIX. He was astonished at how popular the tool is – especially in the United States.
“I was surprised, and many people use these to work,” noted Professor Pigeon.
For years, the research engineer has created good sounds to mask “the bad”: to alleviate anxiety, reduce stress, help with tinnitus, promote calm, even allow for better sleep and enhanced meditation.
He has recorded the sounds from the Arctic Circle, the wetlands of Finland, and the underwater caves of Slovenia, to name just a few locations.
But office sounds? His fans asked him to make some, but he always declined.
“I would always say no, no no! That’s a bad sound. I don’t want to create that,” said Pigeon.
He did it as a kind of a joke and posted it on his website. But no one is laughing. So far, more than a quarter million people have used it. Some users, like Watson, swear by it.
“It’s a godsend. It’s actually a godsend,” said Watson, who lives in the United Kingdom.
Watson works with software and tests apps. With “The Calm Office”, he puts on his headphones, and gets transported into the sounds of servers and droning electronics. He says he’s a lot more productive.
“It can take you out of yourself and put you in a different place,” Watson said.
Pigeon believes it’s a success for a different reason: those who use it know office sounds by heart and have learned to block them out.
“They love open office sounds because they don’t hear them. Their brains are used to that,” noted the sound engineer.
The Calm Office and the website are actually free to use. Pigeon told us he is open to donations and contributions. He created a mobile app but had to hire a coder. To cover the costs on the mobile app and unlock all the content, which includes more than 200 sound generators, you pay a fee of about $10.
The Calm Office: