Is noise driving you to distraction when working from home?

18th February 2021 Off By Vanessa Tierney

One option is to move to Portugal, where new legislation imposes decibel limits during the day – but there are other, less dramatic, options, too.

Working from home can be wonderful – there are so many positives that it is hard to know where to begin. But one thing that does occasionally leave remote workers tearing their hair out is their inability to control noise.

When you work in an office, there is usually a certain level of background din that provides a kind of steady ‘constant’. This buzz means that slight aberrations to the noise level generally go unnoticed – but at home, where things are often completely silent much of the time, a sudden noise can equate to a major irritation.

It could be a barking dog somewhere in the neighborhood. It could be workmen next door who have just begun a six months renovation project. It could be as minor as a TV in the next room. There are just so many possible audible distractions when working from home – and for people who are not especially good at mentally blocking them out, they can be a major issue.

In Portugal, this has been recognised by the government, who has recently set decibel limits to help home workers enjoy distraction-free video calls and generally get the job done in peace. Unfortunately, this is not likely to be replicated worldwide any time soon, so in the meantime here are a few alternative solutions…

Coming at the problem from an extremely high-tech angle, this company creates tiny devices that can block out specific sounds. Their tech analyses the wavelength of the offending noise – such as a cooker hood – and then responds with a kind of aural counter-attack to block it out. They call it ‘active noise control technology’ and sell it as an entire disruptive sound management solution.

White noise machine

To be fair, we quite like the sound of the cooker hood, which makes a bit of a non-starter. However, a less wasteful way to create the sound of a cooker hood or similarly non-invasive monotone is to invest in a noise-canceling machine. Often called white noise machines, they generally avoid white noise as it is actually quite shrill/annoying – a more appealing the side of the noise spectrum is known as brown noise. Amazon sells a raft of noise-canceling machines and the one we recently bought for the princely sum of 50 euros works a treat.

Noise-canceling headphones

You will need to have been on a different planet not to be aware of how much noise-canceling headphones have progressed over the past few years. The best of them can not only drown out background noise but they will be wireless, too, and incredible for listening to music. According to Techradar, the best money can buy are from Sony: their WH-1000XM4 headphones cost around 280 euros and have 30-hour battery life.

Acoustic wall panels

Things have likely got pretty drastic if you’re thinking of shelling out for acoustic wall panels, but in some homes, they might be just the thing to keep out the sound of people chatting away in the next room and so on. You’ll get the best bang for your buck if you get an expert in to advise, but a DIY option such a MuffleCork (see is yours for around 70 euros a meter.

General adjustments around the home

Experts say that there are a host of things you can do to deaden noise around your workspace, such as adding carpet, lots of plants, and sofas/other soft furnishings. It’s never going to drown out the sound of an industrial drill in the next room, but in its own small way, it may help.

Whatever option appeals, don’t feel like you’re over-egging an insignificant problem – noise interruptions can greatly affect your concentration and in some cases your mental well-being.

In fact, noise reduction is something very much on the radar of an Abodoo partner Yonderdesk, the ‘virtual real estate platform’ that turns physical workplaces into digital ones so that remotes workers get the “office experience” from their home. Users can lock their virtual door if they don’t want anyone bothering them – meaningless beeps, alerts, and interruptions.