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Thread: Wearing Headphones While Working at Your Desk

  1. #1

    Wearing Headphones While Working at Your Desk

    Most of the younger staff in our open plan office are listening to stuff most of the day, every day while working. Buds or big over ear headphones, they are totally zoned out from any team interaction, and I canít believe it is not distracting them.

    These are supposedly highly qualified and motivated graduates.

    Maybe I need to get with the times and put a telly on my desk, and watch homes under the hammer while working.

  2. #2
    Master wileeeeeey's Avatar
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    Having the a decent Spotify playlist (music only, no words) on while working can help focus you a lot more than overhearing constant inane chats across the office. Also let's people know you'd rather be left alone to get your work done.

    I don't wear headphones at my desk as my job role wouldn't suit it but a lot of the other teams do (mainly developers) and it works for them.

  3. #3
    Yes, I can't understand why people have to listen to music (which it generally is) at every opportunity.

    Maybe my age.

  4. #4
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    Guess it depends on the kind of work and team. I tend to find that having very quiet soft music (Enya etc) on in the background really helps me concentrate.

    That said, I cannot do it with headphones. Speakers and it's ambient music, but headphones and it's like it's being drilled straight into my brain and I can't focus on anything.

  5. #5
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    i find it odd that people seem to want to wander around with a constant soundtrack or drive around with the farkin auto-tune music banging away - it's an age thing.

  6. #6
    Master Xantiagib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noTAGlove View Post
    Most of the younger staff in our open plan office are listening to stuff most of the day, every day while working. Buds or big over ear headphones, they are totally zoned out from any team interaction, and I can’t believe it is not distracting them.

    These are supposedly highly qualified and motivated graduates.

    Maybe I need to get with the times and put a telly on my desk, and watch homes under the hammer while working.
    For H&S issues we are not allowed to wear headphones in both ears at work. we have USB headsets for telephone use but not meant to wear them permanently and anything we listen to (people do watch videos and listen to music with them inevitably) has to be of sufficient volume that you can hear someone shouting your name to get out of a burning building for example.

  7. #7
    Open-plan offices are a curse from the eighties when developers didn't want to pay (too) much, putting up buildings. Often, this is combined with too many workers and too little desks ("We encourage working from home. Think sustainable!"). For some, the noise of phones, people talking, walking, laughing can be very distracting.

    I can't blame your co-workers. We often think that modern music (often loud) is distracting as well. Remember, that's what they're used to! Having said that, I don't think that anybody would like to use the word 'distracting' when one hears Mozart or Vivaldi through the earphones. Then, suddenly, it's a wise way to focus...

    Menno
    Last edited by thieuster; 7th October 2019 at 18:14.

  8. #8
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    Having to work in an office for the first time in 20 odd years I'd do anything to not hear or interact with any of the soul destroying mindless drivel spouted from this bunch of absolute cretins.

    *this as in the office people, not TZ folk.

  9. #9
    Master Onelasttime's Avatar
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    Every month I have to convert our magazine to iOS format and while doing that I will plug in for three or four days.

    Otherwise, I have to be all ears, which does mean having to suffer the idiots in accounts. I always thought accountants were supposed to be a dull and dreary lot but this shower are like a perpetual hen party.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coot View Post
    Having to work in an office for the first time in 20 odd years I'd do anything to not hear or interact with any of the soul destroying mindless drivel spouted from this bunch of absolute cretins.

    *this as in the office people, not TZ folk.
    Hahaha, everywhere I work is full of evil cretins lol. I was working with window fitters and fear for my life every day being driven to the work sites by lunatic drivers with zero regard for speed limits or safety. One 18 year old kid refused to wear a seat belt and had his legs on the dash the moron

  11. #11
    In my previous office colleagues did wear earphones when writing a report etc. I did wear wired earphones but this was annoying in that the lead was often snagging on the keyboard or mouse.

    I picked up Sony 1000XMs last month and during lunch times, listening to silence is a wonderful break.

    The noise cancelling is amazing.
    Last edited by prexelor; 7th October 2019 at 16:01.

  12. #12
    I wear my QC35 at my desk most days to listen to music (as well as using them for conference calls). It helps me focus and drown out the background chatter. We hot desk now so no one sits in teams really, I can be sat on a bank of desks with a load of randoms and find it distracting listening to their conversations and calls.

  13. #13
    Noise canceling headphones were my first purchase after moving into open space office. Itís so bloody noisy in there.

  14. #14
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    As a SW developer it can be very useful to cut out the chatter and focus. As with all things there is a balance to be achieved.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by wileeeeeey View Post
    Having the a decent Spotify playlist (music only, no words) on while working can help focus you a lot more than overhearing constant inane chats across the office. Also let's people know you'd rather be left alone to get your work done.
    This. A 1000 times this.

  16. #16
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    I listen to music most of the time at work. Tend to just set Google Play off in the morning and that'll be that. I find it helps drown out the background noise (open plan offices, yay) and conversations that would probably end up drawing me, allowing me to really concentrate on what I'm doing. Plus it actually makes work somewhat enjoyable, but YMMV.

  17. #17
    Grand Master Der Amf's Avatar
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    When at college, I had a part time job doing something very routine in an office. When the management realised that listening to music made us less likely to talk to another another, they positively encouraged it. It also helped the job not seem so mind numbingly tedious, which meant we concentrated better on doing the work accurately.

  18. #18
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy67 View Post
    As a SW developer it can be very useful to cut out the chatter and focus. As with all things there is a balance to be achieved.
    This. I find listening to the right music allows me to concentrate much better than being exposed to office blabbing.

    But, as you say, one should not be totally separated from it so as to be able to respond to individually directed verbal questions. Or the fire alarm.

  19. #19
    I listen to music in the office. Drowns out the noise and I concentrate more.

  20. #20
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    I listen to music / podcasts all day every day at work. It helps me focus and cut out all the white noise that goes on in the office.

  21. #21
    Grand Master VDG's Avatar
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    When I walk into an office and see people wearing headphones it tells me straight away that they are easily replaceable/office plankton.
    Fas est ab hoste doceri

  22. #22
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VDG View Post
    When I walk into an office and see people wearing headphones it tells me straight away that they are easily replaceable/office plankton.
    Ah, but isn't everyone nowadays? See the E-Myth books. If one's business is not fully franchisable/process-driven then it's gradually going out of business. ;-)

  23. #23
    Grand Master VDG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markrlondon View Post
    Ah, but isn't everyone nowadays? See the E-Myth books. If one's business is not fully franchisable/process-driven then it's gradually going out of business. ;-)
    True, there is no irreplaceable people, however some people are more easily replaceable than others without affecting overall productivity. If anyone can work without interacting with co-workers or need to be aware of what is going on in the office around them, does not need to come to the office at all, which would translate for a business into direct savings on office rent (or an opportunity to launch a new project). Plus additional savings on outsourcing that job to the Kingdom Far Far Away. FWIW naturally ;)

    PS ffs, I just reread what I’ve typed and I sound like an accountant
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  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by VDG View Post
    When I walk into an office and see people wearing headphones it tells me straight away that they are easily replaceable/office plankton.
    Maybe they do it so they donít have to listen to you telling everyone how irreplaceable you are?

  25. #25
    Master wileeeeeey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VDG View Post
    When I walk into an office and see people wearing headphones it tells me straight away that they are easily replaceable/office plankton.
    It's the other way around. It's people like me in suits who can't listen to music at their desk who are the most easily replaced. That's why developers and data scientists can wear shorts and a t-shirt with noise cancelling headphones in corporate environments. They're needed and can find a new job the same day let alone tomorrow.

  26. #26
    I think itís a lot to do with open plan offices and hot desking - I am doing some work for a client who rent space in one of the most god-awful WeWork blocks and the whole building is hard floors and glass walls (where there are any) and the background noise is indescribable.

  27. #27
    Master mindforge's Avatar
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    If I have to use headphones to drown out coworkers and concentrate, there's no need to be in the office. I know not everyone has the luxury of somewhere to work at home but then offices should provide quiet spaces for actual work and open plan parts for, ahem, collaboration.

    I work from home when I need to concentrate and go into the office when I have meetings in the City or need to work with people in person. But I was adamant that we would not have an open plan office.

  28. #28
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    We have Skype for business at work so head phones have to be worn. It has changed the dynamic within the office, but its been going down hill for some time in my office. Hardly any banter these days other than a bit of football. I do my own thing... go to the gym most lunchtimes. Some weeks I rarely speak to anyone, which I know is not good, but that's what Skype does. I'm the office welfare rep as well!
    Last edited by wildheart; 8th October 2019 at 10:14.

  29. #29
    Master Albellisimo's Avatar
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    We have the stereo on in our section of an open-plan office. Usually listen to FiP Rock or NME Playlist 1. A lot of the designers and marketing wear headphones. I couldn't work with out Sonos - but it years of having stereos on I suppose.....

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Albellisimo View Post
    We have the stereo on in our section of an open-plan office. Usually listen to FiP Rock or NME Playlist 1. A lot of the designers and marketing wear headphones. I couldn't work with out Sonos - but it years of having stereos on I suppose.....
    Hope you've got a licence.

  31. #31
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VDG View Post
    PS ffs, I just reread what I’ve typed and I sound like an accountant
    Hah, nothing wrong with that! The world needs people who see the pure economic value in things. But, ideally, the decision makers should be able to temper advice from those who see things in purely pragmatic/utilitarian/economic terms with what works best overall. The purely pragmatic/utilitarian/economic is rarely net beneficial on its own.

    This is also why politicians need advice from domain experts (e.g. scientists and the like) but they should not always take their advice. Domain experts are experts in their domain but they are not in as informed a position to make the more rounded decisions that the business/national/whatever leader needs to make for everyone they represent. This is not to say that scientific or other domain expert advice should be ignored or go unheeded! It's just that it cannot stand on its own; others factors matter.

    Quote Originally Posted by VDG View Post
    If anyone can work without interacting with co-workers or need to be aware of what is going on in the office around them, does not need to come to the office at all, which would translate for a business into direct savings on office rent
    Absolutely true, but that doesn't mean they can be done without. It depends on the nature of the business of course but, for software development, these insular, non-interacting workers are the ones who make the code that makes the money. Paradoxically, even though they may not interact much in an office, it can still be cost effective to bring them to an office as many people do seem to work better when brought together, even if they don't communicate for much of the time while they are doing their jobs.

    Quote Originally Posted by VDG View Post
    Plus additional savings on outsourcing that job to the Kingdom Far Far Away. FWIW naturally ;)
    Quite so. But I don't think that's related to sitting in an office listening to music while coding. I'd wager that Indian coders do much the same. It's just that (for now, but not much longer I suspect) Indian coders are cheaper than US/UK/many European ones.
    Last edited by markrlondon; 8th October 2019 at 12:59.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kingstepper View Post
    Yes, I can't understand why people have to listen to music (which it generally is) at every opportunity.

    Maybe my age.
    I work in an open plan office, beside a very loud infrastructure team. It can be quite distracting hearing details of every security issue, hardware problem, user screw up and all the other problems that go with Enterprise Infrastructure, and I need to concentrate on my work.

    I cant move desks so my other option is to use headphones. I listen to music that does not distract me, generally fairly soft classical or soundtracks. It blocks out the office chatter and lets me focus on my work.

    But it might not work for you. just know it works for some in some situations.

  33. #33
    Master Albellisimo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kingstepper View Post
    Hope you've got a licence.
    Sadly PRS are aware of our movements - can't really escape them in our industry!

  34. #34

    Wearing Headphones While Working at Your Desk


  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Wilson_smyth View Post
    I work in an open plan office, beside a very loud infrastructure team. It can be quite distracting hearing details of every security issue, hardware problem, user screw up and all the other problems that go with Enterprise Infrastructure, and I need to concentrate on my work.

    I cant move desks so my other option is to use headphones. I listen to music that does not distract me, generally fairly soft classical or soundtracks. It blocks out the office chatter and lets me focus on my work.

    But it might not work for you. just know it works for some in some situations.
    Didn't just mean at work but also generally when out and about, at home - everywhere really!

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by OldHooky View Post
    thanks, interesting read. I can confirm that now I prefer to email or skype to my colleague who is sitting 2.5m away rather than speak to him. We spoke more when we sat in a separate rooms.

  37. #37
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    I've worked from home for nearly 20 years, and I find the noise of the office (when I'm forced to go there) makes it nearly impossible to concentrate. Especialy if A**** if in, talking way too loudly at people on the phone.

    When I was younger, I couldn't bear to be without background noise (mostly music) - from doing school homework through to driving. Nowadays, background noise just distracts me from what I'm trying to, and/or from drifting away on some random thought process.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Normunds View Post
    thanks, interesting read. I can confirm that now I prefer to email or skype to my colleague who is sitting 2.5m away rather than speak to him. We spoke more when we sat in a separate rooms.

    i Hate messengers and email as a communication medium. email cant be avoided but i do anything to avoid the skype/teams/messenger. In my head, every email and message is read in a sarcastic , condescending tone, even if i know that intention isnt there.

    I always walk over to people if they are in teh office. or pick up the phone if they are not. pretty sure it bugs some people i dont use the messenger services.


    Quote Originally Posted by hogthrob View Post
    When I was younger, I couldn't bear to be without background noise (mostly music) - from doing school homework through to driving. Nowadays, background noise just distracts me from what I'm trying to, and/or from drifting away on some random thought process.
    I was the same, needed headphones if i was walking more than 2 mins. Now i spend more time in the moment, taking in whatever is going on about me. With age comes responsibility and with that comes stress. spending time "present in the moment" is the top way of keeping a clear healthy mind, for me anyway ( with exercise & sleep coming joint second)
    Last edited by Wilson_smyth; 8th October 2019 at 18:27.

  39. #39
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    Just don't crank them up too loud. In my early teens I used to do that and have had tinnitus really bad ever since ( about 20 years ago )

    It literally lowers your quality of life, much more than you might think

  40. #40
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilson_smyth View Post
    i Hate messengers and email as a communication medium. email cant be avoided but i do anything to avoid the skype/teams/messenger. In my head, every email and message is read in a sarcastic , condescending tone, even if i know that intention isnt there.

    I always walk over to people if they are in teh office. or pick up the phone if they are not. pretty sure it bugs some people i dont use the messenger services.
    That's interesting. To me, email (preferably) and IM programs (less ideally for me) are the cure for people who want to take up my time according to their own personal agenda! Like... err... you it seems. Similarly, if I email someone I know that they will deal with it when it is convenient for them rather than according to my own agenda. I only contact them via IM or phone or face to face if it is genuinely urgent and I can genuinely justify disrupting their work and thought processes.

    I differentiate between email and IM tools because email is generally considered to be an asynchronous communications medium where an instant response need not be expected (much like forum messages like these). Yes, I know that some people expect instant responses to email but the fact remains that email is a underlying asynchronous medium.

    In comparison, IM tools (as well as face to face contact and the telephone) are generally perceived to be synchronous communications mediums, where an instant response is either expected or practically necessary. Whilst there is nothing about IM that really forces an instant response (i.e. it can be used asynchronously much like email), the cultural expectation is usually of instant response. And of course phone or face to face contact really do require instant responses and thus breakage of workflow.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by markrlondon View Post
    That's interesting. To me, email (preferably) and IM programs (less ideally for me) are the cure for people who want to take up my time according to their own personal agenda! Like... err... you it seems.
    Im concerned about getting my workload done. Depending on how useful you are to me, I'd waste the shi1t out of your time! Unless you spend your time explaining the difference between synchronous and asynchronous, you're not much use to anyone then and will probably be left alone.

  42. #42
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wilson_smyth View Post
    Im concerned about getting my workload done. Depending on how useful you are to me, I'd waste the shi1t out of your time!
    Well, quite. But it cuts both ways of course -- everyone is concerned about getting their workload done. :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilson_smyth View Post
    Unless you spend your time explaining the difference between synchronous and asynchronous, you're not much use to anyone then and will probably be left alone.
    <chortle> I have previously been paid for doing exactly that, as it happens. I was a 'technical presales consultant' and I really did explain to people the difference between synchronous and asynchronous in the context of differing messaging systems. :-)

  43. #43
    Grand Master VDG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markrlondon View Post
    Hah, nothing wrong with that! The world needs people who see the pure economic value in things. But, ideally, the decision makers should be able to temper advice from those who see things in purely pragmatic/utilitarian/economic terms with what works best overall. The purely pragmatic/utilitarian/economic is rarely net beneficial on its own.

    This is also why politicians need advice from domain experts (e.g. scientists and the like) but they should not always take their advice. Domain experts are experts in their domain but they are not in as informed a position to make the more rounded decisions that the business/national/whatever leader needs to make for everyone they represent. This is not to say that scientific or other domain expert advice should be ignored or go unheeded! It's just that it cannot stand on its own; others factors matter.



    Absolutely true, but that doesn't mean they can be done without. It depends on the nature of the business of course but, for software development, these insular, non-interacting workers are the ones who make the code that makes the money. Paradoxically, even though they may not interact much in an office, it can still be cost effective to bring them to an office as many people do seem to work better when brought together, even if they don't communicate for much of the time while they are doing their jobs.



    Quite so. But I don't think that's related to sitting in an office listening to music while coding. I'd wager that Indian coders do much the same. It's just that (for now, but not much longer I suspect) Indian coders are cheaper than US/UK/many European ones.
    I completely agree that it all depends on the type of business. Still seeing anyone wearing over ear h/p outside of a recording studio or a lounge listening home Hi-Fi always reminds me of this

    Fas est ab hoste doceri

  44. #44
    I worked for a Digital Orthodontic company in Dallas, they had 30-50 technicians that sat all day in front of computers digitally moving teeth on screens, all of them sat there with head-homes on and some iPads plugged in watching Netflix.

    it was like walking through a church yard, dead quiet.

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by thieuster View Post
    Open-plan offices are a curse from the eighties when developers didn't want to pay (too) much, putting up buildings. Often, this is combined with too many workers and too little desks ("We encourage working from home. Think sustainable!"). For some, the noise of phones, people talking, walking, laughing can be very distracting.

    I can't blame your co-workers. We often think that modern music (often loud) is distracting as well. Remember, that's what they're used to! Having said that, I don't think that anybody would like to use the word 'distracting' when one hears Mozart or Vivaldi through the earphones. Then, suddenly, it's a wise way to focus...

    Menno
    Exactly this. Our office is 'open plan' and it's much less distracting listening to some tunes than listening to the hags behind you discussing Loose Women or some other vapid s***e or the idiot on the other side of the office who hasn't yet learned that you don't have to scream into your phone for the other person to hear you.

  46. #46
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VDG View Post
    I completely agree that it all depends on the type of business. Still seeing anyone wearing over ear h/p outside of a recording studio or a lounge listening home Hi-Fi always reminds me of this

    Aww.... red is my favourite colour. ;-)

  47. #47
    Grand Master markrlondon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by justin44 View Post
    all of them sat there with head-homes on
    Excellent typo! :-)

  48. #48
    Grand Master VDG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markrlondon View Post
    Aww.... red is my favourite colour. ;-)
    LOL mine too. I've got a red jacket almost identical to what that chap is wearing. Goes nicely with a new pair creps
    Fas est ab hoste doceri

  49. #49
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    It depends on the line of work.
    I work in design & generally the etiquette (at least in my team) ; wearing cans == thinking, please don't disturb.
    Certainly not seen as rude.

    Instant messaging OTOH, if if its that important (& we're both on site), get off arse & speak to me.

  50. #50
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    These days, I work independently from home and sometimes miss the interaction you get in a friendly company, but my last company sounds like many mentioned here.

    Either people talking loudly into phones, while everyone around them does the same (had this today, one person sounded like they were in a soft play area!) or plugged in, switched off from everyone else people, who may as well have stayed at home and saved the planet a little CO2...

    Even when 'my team' were in we never had time to talk, so what was the point of being there together?

    On balance, I don't miss it that much...

    M

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