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Headphones Are The New Office Walls

Are headphones accepted in your office?

Maybe you find headphones insulting. Your employees can’t hear you when you’re trying to talk to them, how can they do their work?

There is a reason your (most likely younger) employees are wearing headphones.

Whether the phones are ringing, a co-worker is having a loud phone conversation or there are multiple visitors in the office – office noise is distracting. For some, wearing headphones, serves the same purpose as closing the office door (if you’re lucky enough to have one).

Guaranteed, when you ask someone why they wear headphones at work, their answer will be that it helps them focus or relax. A recent study found that millennials in particular, listen to 75 percent more music than baby boomers. Background music is something they’re used to and is always there — similar to white noise, music helps them focus on what they’re doing, rather than the music itself.

Maybe you are the frustrated manger and you think limits should be put in place. Are your employees disengaged with group projects? Maybe you have to call multiple times before you get an answer? Without a doubt, this can be very frustrating. It is okay to set boundaries for your employees and tell them headphones are not acceptable at certain times. The important thing is to make your employees aware of why you would like them to go headphone free. For example, “It’s okay to listen to your music but the work pile is thick today and everyone needs to be available to one another at any given time. We will need to work headphone free until we get through this rush.”

It’s also important to remind your employees that being available or being able to hear one another in the office is important. They may miss important information or great opportunities. A lot of learning happens when they’re just listening to overheard conversations and the buzz around the office. Being on high alert also allows them to know if there’s a situation where they could jump in to help.

If you are the one craving music at work, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your music at a low volume
  • Let your manager know when you’re putting on your music
  • Make sure that you look up every now and then to be aware of what’s going on around you
  • Watch the lyrics in your music
  • Only use headphones when you really need to for concentration
  • If you’re always in your own world, it can be hard to build the working relationships that occur naturally just from small talk as someone walks by

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