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Headphone sales are on the rise, as the trend toward open office design continues. The jury is still out whether headphones and ear buds at work are beneficial, practical, detrimental to productivity and creativity, or just plain rude.200317342-001

What the Experts Have to Say
Recent research has uncovered little proof that listening to music improves concentration.

  • In a study of 102 college students, published by the journal Work, listening to music on ear buds was linked to lower concentration.
  • Listening to hip-hop music led to a significant decline in reading test scores among 133 adults in a study by the Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
  • In a third study, of 89 students aged 19 through 28, it was found that workers who either loved or hated music being played while they were working scored the lowest on tests of attention, compared with those who had no strong feelings on the issue.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The good news is: An increasing number of office workers are using headphones and ear buds. The bad news is: An increasing number of office workers are using headphones and ear buds.

Here are some points in favor of this trend:

  • Headphones are a visual “do not disturb” sign. They block distractions and send a clear message to others that you need to be left alone to get work done.
  • Noise reduction is beneficial. Headphones can screen out up to 75 percent of office noise. They help ease the sounds of speech and other ordinary activity. This reduces fatigue for many employees.
  • We all need a little privacy. Organizational psychologists agree that talented, motivated people should be encouraged to work alone “when creativity and efficiency are the highest priorities.”

And on the downside:

  • Headphones build barriers to new ideas. Generally, innovation and collaboration don’t happen during organized meetings. The best concepts are born in informal settings, at your desk or cubicle, chatting with others. GlaxoSmithKline saved $10 million in annual real estate costs by shifting 1,200 employees at one site to unassigned seating. Subsequently, decision-making among staff rose 25 percent due to the resulting increase in good old-fashioned face-to-face conversation.
  • You risk missing advancement opportunities. Headphones are a deterrent to the natural ambiance of an office – random chatter, news bytes and discussions. In your own little headphone world, you’re effectively out of the loop and potentially losing a part of your career development. At best, you miss the traditional, organic collaboration that is part of the DNA of office life.

A Healthy Balance
Headphones or no headphones? Seems it’s largely a personal or individual work site decision. Like so many things in life, perhaps the best answer is a compromise.

We need to accept the reality of our electronically networked workplaces and the preference of many for private digital media consumption. At the same time, we need to foster a work environment that includes physical interaction and communication. Regardless of the newly-discovered devices involved, there is a happy medium!

For additional resources on workplace development, staffing and related resources, turn to the expert team at PrideStaff Fresno. Contact PrideStaff Fresno online or give us a call today.

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