The following is from the Jan. 21, 2007, edition of Daytona Beach News-Journal.

When is it OK to wear headphones at work?

By The Associated Press

Whether they're attached to an iPod, the new Zune or a computer, headphones have become a new staple of office life. Employees are working their day away with music, news or podcasts streaming into their ears.

But is it OK to wear headphones when you're on the clock, or should you tough out your shift without tunes?

"Some people say, 'I put on the headphones. I have a monotonous job and that keeps me entertained or more stimulated, and therefore I'm more productive. It blocks out all the distractions and background noise and allows me to focus more,' " said Mel Fugate, an assistant professor at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "But the argument on the other side is, well, if you're sitting there listening to music, is that impeding your workflow or your productivity?"

Creative Director Pam Esty says she's always wearing headphones to listen to music and the radio in her small office in Lexington, Mass., where she designs books for young girls.

"It keeps me from being distracted," Esty said. "It's the type of work I need to concentrate on what I'm doing. It's so creative. I listen to music to get me going."

But is there a chance that wearing headphones could slow down your career climb? Maybe. Maybe not, Fugate said. For one thing, technology is expanding to all parts of our lives, including work.

Esty says the headphones don't bother her co-workers, and she can hear her phone if it rings. She can then tune out whatever she's listening to to interact with others.

"There's something very comforting about earphones," she says "I don't turn up the music too loud, either. I'm careful about that."

But also consider that in some workplaces, wearing headphones might be an issue, especially if your co-workers think they can't communicate with you.

One example that employees often follow: their manager.

"If your manager was plugged into an iPod, they certainly would feel no fear or no shame about wearing headphones themselves," Fugate says. "That essentially sanctions it."

Who's Tuning In?

Spherion Corp., a recruiting and staffing company in Fort Lauderdale, had Harris Interactive conduct a survey of 1,613 workers to find out how many were wearing headphones during work and why. Some of the results:

  • 32% of employees listen to music while working.
  • 48% from ages 25 to 29 said they listen to music during work.
  • 90% from ages 18 to 24 and 89% from ages 30 to 39 said being able to listen to music during work made them more satisfied with their jobs and more productive.



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