Whether you’re in an office or an open working space, it’s easy to get distracted by others. For many people, headphones can be useful tools for staying focused, but for others, they can be another source of distraction.
So are headphones good or bad? It’s really a matter of perspective and depends on who you’re talking about. For managers, it can be worrying to see a whole team with headphones plugged in, but for the employee, work might otherwise be too stressful or chaotic.
In today’s post, we’ll cover the case for both sides, as well as some tips and etiquette if your team wears headphones.
Benefits of wearing headphones at work
You’re working on finishing up an important document, but your colleagues are already talking about lunch. Or maybe your phone is buzzing with a dozen notifications from your parents. Whatever the reason may be, headphones can help you stay focused on the task at hand. They can help drown out ambient noise and chatter, helping you concentrate on your work.
Headphones and productivity can go hand in hand. Studies have shown that listening to music can help enhance your creativity, attention, and overall productivity. According to Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami, music can “break you out of just thinking one way.” Her research showed that music listeners are able to finish tasks more quickly, and even come up with better ideas than people who work without music.
Let’s face it, work can become monotonous, overwhelming, and just downright stressful. You may work for several hours with just a few minutes of rest in between. Why not elevate your mood by listening to some upbeat music? Music streaming service Spotify even has a playlist dedicated to feel good songs and deep focus. You don’t even need to listen to music! Some people like to listen to rain or waves, or light ambient sounds. And if you prefer some internet radio programming, check out Novel Coworking client Live365, an internet radio broadcast network.
Disadvantages of wearing headphones at work
A common issue with headphones is that they discourage listeners from talking and communicating with other colleagues. That might be useful if you’re working on a solo assignment, but for projects and collaborative efforts, headphones can be detrimental to the team dynamic.
Sometimes listening to music only exacerbates your inattention. You may start listening too closely to the music and start looking up lyrics or artist information instead of concentrating. Worse, when the music is too loud, it can become distracting for others within your proximity.
Etiquette tips for using headphones at work
- Be mindful of others – Know when to listen to music, and when to put the headphones away. If you’re on your own or focused on finishing a certain task, listening to music is perfectly acceptable. But if you’re working with others, know when to take the headphones off. And when you go to the bathroom or get water, leave your headphones off so people aren’t afraid to talk to you if they need to.
- Respect your deskmates – If you happen to share a desk with others, keep your music volume in check. You never want to play it so loudly that it might sidetrack them from their work.
- Earbuds over headphones – For the best of both worlds, try using a single earbud while working. The music will be enough to keep you engaged, but also keeps you aware of others that might want to speak to you.
- Establish rules for headphones – If you have a larger team and headphone use is becoming a rampant problem, then it may be best to lay down some rules for how they can be used. Generally, if their role doesn’t involve much human interaction, or they feel more skilled or engaged with their work when listening to music, they should be allowed to use headphones.
Should you wear headphones at work?
Ultimately, using headphones while working depends on the listener. For some, they truly do make work more enjoyable. For others, they might be too distracting.
If you have a problem with widespread headphone use, start by speaking with your team before you institute new rules or a ban. Are they productive or distracting? You might find the answer varies depending on who you speak to.
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