Hello, white noise, my old friend.
If you’ve been working from home during the pandemic and you’re usually in an office, you might have initially found yourself rejoicing in the ability to control the noise level in your work environment. No chewing! No Ed Sheeran on a shitty Bluetooth speaker! No that one guy in sales who never turns his phone on silent!
But unless you’re one of the heroic folks trying to work from home while also wrangling (and teaching) kids, after a while it just gets a little too quiet. You’ve thrashed your favourite focus playlists and lo-fi beats YouTube channels, and your partner’s muffled conference calls filtering through the closed door isn’t exactly doing the job either. You actually start missing the gentle background distraction of a little office bustle. Fortunately, there’s a website for that.
After a morning spent listening to The Sounds Of Colleagues, I can vouch for its soothing atmospheric effects. A simple interface lets you adjust the mix of office noises to your liking: keyboards tapping, a window open to the street below, the hum of a fully functioning printer, an espresso machine, leisurely rain sounds, and even an office dog snuffling in a corner. (I turned the sound of an occasionally ringing iPhone right down to mute, thanks very much, and the dog whining tugged a bit too much at my new-dog-parent heartstrings after a while.)
The effect is a consistent, cosy background buzz that feels both ambient and more human than your usual white noise, and immediately puts my brain in Work Mode.
As well as the site, which you can leave open in a browser tab, The Sounds Of Colleagues is also a Spotify playlist, with office sounds ranging from a Mad Men vibe with ’60s typewriters to “Start Up Office, Friday Afternoon” which might be useful if you’re missing those pre-weekend beers.
The Sounds of Colleagues isn’t the only tool for office folks feeling isolated, though. A similar tool, with a slightly more businesslike interface, is Calm Office, which focuses purely on office sounds like the copier, markers on paper, and a clock ticking your day away. I Miss The Office takes things in the opposite direction, with a cute modernist 3D space filled with items and “colleagues” represented by graphic shapes, which you can click to turn on or off — one might not say anything for several minutes but then will crunch some snacks, wander past your desk, or laugh. This is worth it just to be able to mute the eating sounds. (For a more true-to-life mix, pop it on alongside one of the more ambient generators to add a little randomness.)
If the office specifically isn’t what you’re missing, there are other background noises aplenty to be found so you can pretend you’re in whatever currently-closed productivity spot you prefer. From coffee shops to parks and libraries, YouTube, streaming platforms, and specialised services like Coffitivity are full of sonic environments to help you drown out the too-familiar sounds of home and get some shit done.
Of course, for the full experience, you might want to play your background noise of choice through your room speakers, and throw on some headphones to muffle that damn printer. Ahhh. It’s like you’re there.