- Among the many challenges brought on by COVID-19, it’s put literal barriers in the way of communication. Plexiglass barriers have been installed at hundreds of retail stores across the country. Social distancing measures put physical distance between people. Masks tend to muffle speech or make it harder to read lips in noisy environments, making it harder to communicate.
- The importance of high quality, clear audio can’t be understated. During the pandemic, some organizations would benefit from audio systems that help amplify speech. But what about those workers whose jobs put them in close quarters with other people, whether customers or co-workers?
- A two-way intercom system that integrates with a physical barrier provides workers the safety mechanism of a physical barrier during the pandemic, while not sacrificing clear communication. The TalkPerfect solution installs easily into varied environments, with a subtle aesthetic design and simple functionality.
The declining plastics industry saw a sharp spike in demand as more businesses and organizations installed plastic sneeze shields as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Sales of plastic sheets — more specifically, acrylics — rose upward of 200% for some distributors, according to NPR.
The spike in demand came after public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended plastic barriers be installed to help stop airborne droplets that could harbor the coronavirus. After those agencies announced the recommendations, establishments from restaurants to shops and grocery stores quickly installed transparent barriers to keep workers and employees safer.
However, there are limitations with these low-cost, acrylic solutions. For starters, it’s important that they don’t inhibit adequate ventilation, potentially trapping lingering droplets. At the same time, the plastic barriers must provide as much coverage as possible, accounting for people’s height and environmental factors.
Considering these factors, public health agencies recommend a layered approach to COVID-19 safety precautions, including personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and improved ventilation.
All of these layers, along with social distancing, have created challenges to communication. Masks, for one, muffle speech and make it harder to decipher what a person says. Then, add to that a temporary plastic barrier. And maybe distance on top of that.
“Many of the places where we converse, like outdoors and in stores with background noise, are not conducive to speech comprehension even in the best of circumstances and the greater distance between us requires soundwaves to travel farther,” writes Valerie Fridland, Ph.D. for the University of Nevada, Reno. “As a result of this combination of more space and less face, the loss of the integration of visual information in our speech processing then has a potentially greater effect.”
In other words, clear communication has become tougher to achieve during the pandemic. So are there solutions that solve for better communication, in spite of masks, physical barriers or distance?
In this blog post, we’ll explore how two-way intercoms can add clarity in environments that may need them most.
Prioritize Safety and Communication with Window Intercoms
Highly trafficked places like gas stations, post offices, banks and other establishments have struggled to find the best ways to ensure safety for workers and visitors.
Largely, solutions haven’t been standardized, and because of ongoing financial strain, the solutions that become implemented must be cost effective and scalable.
That’s a big part of why the acrylic barriers took off. They’re relatively cheap, easy to install, and work for the time being. However, they’re not a silver bullet. People should still wear masks, ensure good ventilation, and socially distance.
Plastic barriers are just one component to a safety strategy, and they don’t exactly enable better communication.
While less cost effective, a more permanent safety glass enclosure or barrier would serve as an ideal, long-term solution and allow for audio enhancements, like a two-way window intercom that could install directly into the glass or counter. With a more robust solution like this, it solves for not only safety but also communication as well.
Consider a Two-Way Window Intercom during the Pandemic
While not a new solution, two-way intercoms have tracked similarly to acrylic barriers during the pandemic, with many on backorder as organizations realize the need for better audio solutions for workers and visitors.
Best-suited for customer service counters, police stations, and similar applications, two-way intercoms reinforce speech for people on either side of the glass. What’s more, in busier or louder environments, some manufacturers’ intercoms actively suppress ambient noise and feedback to create a better listening experience.
Features like ambient noise suppression become even more important during the pandemic as people wear masks, because it helps eliminate any external factors that could affect communication. What’s more, touch-free intercom solutions are most ideal for helping to reduce the likelihood of physical transmission of viruses.
Window intercoms like these can be used in varied environments, but it’s important to consider at least these three factors when searching for a system:
- Will the intercom be used inside or outside?
- Where will it be installed — at a counter or glass window?
- Does the intercom need to blend into the building’s aesthetic?
The primary application, environmental factors and use cases will help filter the results for the ideal intercom solution for banks, security desks, government buildings and more. Williams AV offers the easily installed TalkPerfect Duplex Intercom that’s designed to enhance speech. Visit WilliamsAV.com for more information about the TalkPerfect system.