Technology at Work

Ridiculous Darth Vader helmet helps you tune out noise at work

It’s hard to get peace and quiet in an open working space. Ukrainian design firm Hochu rayu wants to help you find it—as long as you don’t mind wearing an oversized helmet that makes you look like Darth Vader.

Called Helmfon, the helmet makes you look at the very least like an astronaut and promises to “fully block office noise” by encasing you in a cocoon of noise-reducing materials like glass fiber and foamed polyethylene.

Hochu rayu said it designed its prototype for Limelight Networks company, which asked the firm to design Skype meeting rooms for its limited interior space. With built-in microphones and speakers, Helmfon lets you Skype, call your client, and even set up a virtual reality session at your desk without disturbing your seatmates. Hochu rayu said it is currently still testing Helmfon for wider release, so you can’t go out and buy one yet.

Obviously we plan to buy one and expense it immediately when that happens. But until we can be Helmfon-wearing ostriches buried in our work, here are ways to signal you need quiet working time.

Use physical signs to signal you’re in the zone

Noise-cancelling, over-the-ear headphones are the go-to way to show that your ears and attention are occupied. Your colleagues may ignore this anyway and want to chat you up, so you may need to send a stronger signal. Post-it notes that you are busy or a literal sign above your computer monitor may be enough of a deterrent. There’s even a traffic light that you can use to signal your availability status.

Of course, verbal communication is the clearest way to show that you need quiet time. If noise levels are affecting your productivity, try talking to your colleagues to see if you can compromise on loud times and quiet times.

Create background noise to mask the unwanted noise

Adding more noise to your working space may actually make it easier for you to concentrate. Research has found that “unwanted speech noise” is what’s distracting to us, so you can add low-level ambient noise to block out your colleagues’ chit-chat. Consider adding a white noise machine or finding ambient-noise playlists to listen to.

You could also try these 5 tips for creating the perfect work playlist.

Consider working in a quiet room

Ask your employer to create a designated quiet room for employees who need to do uninterrupted work. You should also ask for designated louder spaces where you can feel free to make calls and debate colleagues without disrupting others.

Whatever you do, don’t feel silly for asking for a quieter space. Noise plays a significant factor in our moods. A 2013 study found that a lack of sound privacy was the biggest frustration for employees in open cubicles. Wanting an oversized helmet or a traffic light to fend off chatty co-workers is yes, a little extreme, but if it gives you a productive workplace environment, go forth and don your Helmfons.