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Wearing headphones at work: time for HR to step-in?

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HC Online | 17 Dec 2013, 12:00 AM Agree 0
It’s a fine-line between communicating optimal work conditions to employees, and coming across as the fun police. But new evidence suggests allowing headphones could dent the bottom line.
  • Sean Reddell, Blaze Unlimited. | 10 Jan 2013, 10:29 PM Agree 0
    I get what Kreamer is saying about connecting to the culture but what about when the organisation is spread across several floors, buildings or countries? In those circumstances you'd want more than just the relationships in desks next to or near you to support the organisational culture. And my second thought is that it {the headphones off, open plan environment} is exclusively geared toward extroverted personality types.

    Perhaps a combination of open plan with quiet working space for complex tasks or those requiring concentration and deep thinking?

  • Chris | 13 Jan 2013, 10:13 AM Agree 0
    I find that some people will skip important conversations with people just because they are wearing headphones and don't want to interrupt them. My company created an iPhone app that helps with this. It looks over the shoulder of the person wearing the headphones and pauses their music when somebody comes into their cube. It is called iPauseMusic. That way we can listen to music at our desk without ignoring our co-workers.
  • Harley | 19 Aug 2013, 03:17 PM Agree 0
    I am one of those people who need to use music to get into the right frame of mind for certian tasks. Generally when producing KPI reports for example. When working with words though I need more quiet.

    In regards to extroverted / introverted, I don't think that will have an effect unless you are having extremely fast-paced conversations which may tire out your introverts while energising your extroverts. Some people however are easily distracted by visual or auditory stimulis. This would cause someone in an open plan to continually get distracted by people going past and conversations near him/her.
  • Nicole | 20 Aug 2013, 02:41 PM Agree 0
    Perhaps in smaller organisations this could be considered, however in large organisations if we were to rely on the assumption that each individual has heard/ is listening to office discussions or is fully focused on office chit-chat is delusional. Workers are being considerate by wearing headphones and not causing noise pollution to other workers, they should not be now ostricised for this. When will this end?
  • Alan Keys | 17 Dec 2013, 03:28 PM Agree 0
    Sorry, I wasn't paying attention.. I had my earphones on !!!
  • Jessica | 17 Dec 2013, 04:52 PM Agree 0
    I have a number of very chatty, noisy colleagues around me. It is rare for their conversations to be related to my work as it is usually about their son's new kitchen, daughter's dance concert or whinging about our external consultants. When I'm trying to write a complex formula or review a detailed report, I find the only way I can think is to block them out. Sometimes I put my headphones in with no music playing, just to make them a bit quieter!
    In saying this, I only wear head phones when the other members of my department are out of the office or busy in meetings - I don't want to seem unapproachable to them.
  • Jason Buchanan - Optimum Consulting | 16 Jan 2014, 04:00 PM Agree 0
    A very interesting topic indeed. I have been spending a lot of time looking at what Neuroscience is teaching us about our brains at work, and one of the stats that I came across is that it can take up to 25 minutes to get back into the concentration 'zone' after an interruption.

    Imagine a person with a heavy workload who was interrupted 10 times a day (the number is normally much higher), the impact on performance and frustration can be significant. However, the real fun comes when performance reviews occur - how many managers recogninse 'contribution to workplace culture and conversation' when other targets are not met? In my experience, if we encourage adults to be self-aware of how they are contributing, and when they or others need to concentrate, and to communicate this effectively, a nice balance can exist.

    The trick seems to be to work with the right people who are self-aware.
  • Ken | 07 May 2014, 02:57 AM Agree 0
    This is silly. If this was such a benefit to hear the buzz, then no one would need an office. Furthermore if the office buzz is so exponentially valuable, then the top executives would sit in open cubes constantly monitoring the office.
  • Jen B. | 11 Jul 2014, 06:03 AM Agree 0
    The fact that two of my co-workers here in my office have earphones plugged in means that I always I to tap their shoulder to get their attention because they are in another world. It is totally absurd to allow people to listen to music when they are working. They are paid to interact with others. I always feel like I'm interrupting them when they pull those plugs out. They never fail to give me a stunned look, as if I am bothering them. It is maddening!
    • Lolana | 10 Sep 2018, 05:25 PM Agree 0 too. I'm on a late shift with just a few people in the building, and it's really quiet here. There's a guy directly across from me and there are entire nights when he doesn't even say hello. Really nice young guy, I like him a lot, but there's no way to approach him without startling him and making him jump a mile. I'm 50..I'm not used to this new social wave that's going on where people just ignore everyone and that's considered normal. It's very strange to be sitting five feet from a person who for all practical purposes is not even really there. Actually it's depressing. I don't need conversation at the Job, but....I find this extreme ..and weird.
  • Chris A. | 30 Aug 2014, 06:37 AM Agree 0
    But what about the co-workers that chew like dogs at their desks, munching away on their chips...I put headphones in otherwise I am so distracted I can't do a thing.
  • Antoine | 22 Apr 2017, 05:56 AM Agree 0
    I work on a close knit desk largely populated with extroverts, the surrounding teams generate a lot of ambient noise, i am an it analyst and so sometimes need to concentrate on problems or carry out lengthy tasks. I cannot concentrate on my work because of the noise. Our boss has just banned headphones, he is in for a shock when all the work is wrong.
  • David J. | 08 Nov 2017, 07:38 PM Agree 0
    I actually DO NOT wish to listen 8 hours a day to the uneducated recipients that work within hearing range (in my office). They don't work in my own team, they also are not discussing critical business information. They are actually detrimental to my quality of life - I put ear phones on to block out their drone! I don't know how they are still employed here, their level of productivity is a joke!

    I have my schedule, its on the Computer I sit infront of. I come to this environment to earn an income, not to make friends (with people I wouldn't socialise with outside of this workplace).
  • Fred the shred | 21 Feb 2018, 11:44 PM Agree 0
    " ... the incidental conversations buzzing around the office ..." are why, in a previous job, I used to go to my boss and tell her that I needed to go home for some peace and quiet as I had work to do. I was senior in-house corporate lawyer, buried in drafting documents hundreds of pages long, and the constant bellowing of sales colleagues on mobiles, bantering etc made meaningful work next to impossible.

    Slightly odd that my home office was a more productive environment than my so-called office.

    All these feather-headed joviality-fascists thinking an office as about "the buzz". Grow up
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