Psychological barriers to speech recognition in the office

Open plan offices are the norm these days, yet for many of us they can be an uneasy place to work. People passing by can be a distraction, and people stopping for a chat can be even more of a distraction.

There are unwritten rules of behavior in open plan offices which stop the distractions becoming too much to bear. One of these unwritten rules is that we like to keep noise levels down. Yes, there is often more to hear than the click-clack of keys being pressed and the ringing of phones, but chatter that’s likely to take more than a few seconds is moved away from desks to somewhere more appropriate. People on calls talk in hushed tones. People who like to work with music use headphones. The result is a gentle background noise that some people can find quite comforting.

But what if you want to use dictation software in an open plan office? If much of your day is spent on document production, then that will mean much of your day will be spent talking. It’s rather different to the odd phone call here and there or a muted greeting to a colleague in terms of noise levels – particularly for others working very close by.

It is easy to be put off by the prospect, but the reality is that Dragon is perfectly capable of hearing what you say when you speak in very hushed tones – even a whisper. I am dictating this blog using a headset with a microphone close to my mouth and I am speaking very quietly. In fact, I’m speaking as quietly as I would do if I were on a phone call, and incidentally, because of the way my computer system is set up, I use that same headset on phone calls – and if I want to listen to some music while I work.

This brings me onto the second point. People can feel a little awkward wearing a headset at work and if you’re not used to it, I can understand that. Look around any modern office and you will see plenty of people wearing many different kinds of headsets from wireless earbuds that are popular among some phone users right through to over-the-ear headphones with enormous ear covers that might look a bit odd, but which provide excellent quality sound and can cancel out ambient and distracting noises, putting the wearer into a cocoon of quietness.

Rest assured, if others around you are wearing headsets or earbuds of any kind, then anything you might say to your computer will be of little or no interest to them because they will be focused on other things. The fact that you decide to wear a headset will likely not cause your colleagues to bat an eyelid. There are so many choices available now that you can, if you want to, select something really discrete and lightweight, so that you don’t feel conspicuous or constrained. Of course, the ideal headsets are wireless, so that you aren’t tethered to the desk.

The third, and really important, thing that might put you off using Dragon is that nobody else is using it but think about your own productivity to see what the benefits could be. Here I can offer advice based on personal experience. When I use Dragon, two really important things happen:

  • I produce text more quickly. Dragon really can get my words down on the screen faster than I can type them. It can also insert standardised phrases for me, so I don’t have to repeat the same things over and over again and potentially make mistakes. I get more done, more accurately, and more quickly.
  • I focus more. I am less likely to get distracted when I am dictating than when I am typing. My brain feels fully engaged. Better focus and less distraction can lead to higher quality work and it means when I am finished with a piece of work, I feel ready for a short break, to get my mind back in gear for the next thing.

When others in the office see you being more productive, perhaps they too will see the benefits of using the power of your voice to work. Suddenly you are an evangelist, and all those barriers will melt away!

Alixson Bell

About Alixson Bell

Alixson graduated from the University of Washington in 2008 and promptly started her career in the computer software industry at a company called Varolii Corporation in Seattle, WA. After Varolii was acquired by Nuance, she quickly became enamored by the many ways to improve customer satisfaction through omni-channel customer service solutions, all powered by AI. She is now a Senior marketing project manager for Nuance, but more than that, she is a firm believer in Nuance’s technology and teams who are tirelessly focused on customer-centric outcomes and results.