more-arw search

Q&A Forum

Allowing Ear Buds At Work - Pros & Cons

Does anyone have experience not allowing employees to use head phones?  What are the costs and benefits of this action?

I began with my current company 6 months ago as the Controller. I manage a team of 5 who use head phones everyday. One employee has a very redundant job and the headphones are probably beneficial, though it does limit her interaction with the team. The other employees seem to be disconnected from each other, and 2 of them seem to be making a large number of mistakes that may or may not be connected to the distraction of the headphones (I think one is listening to podcasts, the others to music). As part of my 6 month team review, I am considering removing the ability to listen to headphones (this is supported in the company handbook though not previously enforced), but want to know what I should be prepared for. The team consists of 2 Gen Y, and 3 Gen X's if that helps.

Answers

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

If it is NOT for safety, allow it. The headphones are a coping mechanism to the real cause/s of the problem......NOT the cause. Disallowing headphones takes away the coping mechanism and YOU STILL HAVE NOT ADDRESSED THE REAL ISSUE/S. Disallowing headphones is an antiquated office rule that should be relegated to the dustbin. What is next? Banning desk decorations/personalizations so they can focus on work?

My guess is that you have a more serious "problem" than just "headphones". Your employees are not engaged and the culture (work relationship or quality of personnel) has much to be desired. That being said, even in engaged organizations or great cultured companies, use of headphones are a necessity.

Ross Anderson, CPA, MBA
Title: Controller
Company: TFS Capital
(Controller, TFS Capital) |

We allow them. Our office even buys employees nice pairs of headphones. I think it is justifiable as we have tight quarters and it helps some employees focus. Otherwise the environment would have too many distractions given how close they work together. When I need to focus it really helps to put them on and listen to classical music. I otherwise don't have them on much during the day, but I usually do have the news playing at a reasonable level (I don't sit next to anyone).

The one issue is that it does seem to remove people mentally and they won't be as interactive as they won't hear things around them that catch their ear. When people are doing their work they are likely fine to be listening to something else. To get around that you'll have to work harder to build collaboration amongst the team, which may already be lacking. I don't believe the headphones destroy performance, but its still on the employee to do what they need to do to focus (you telling them what to do may not be received well, although giving them suggestions may go okay).

Topic Expert
Jaime Campbell
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Tier One Services, LLC
(Chief Financial Officer, Tier One Services, LLC) |

I completely agree with Emerson. This is not about headphones, it's about your team members relating to each other.

Address the underlying issue with a series of relaxed, open conversations and your commitment to specific action to make sure each member of your team feels supported - by you and by each other - in being superstars at what they do.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I'm not thrilled with them, but do allow them. My only objection to their use is if they set the volume so loud to:

a) annoy other people, as in I can hear your "music"
b) you don't hear the phone or another team member address you

Anonymous
(Tax & Regulatory Consultant) |

As a Director of Finance, I had a "one ear bud out" rule...that way when someone wants their attention, or there's something going on they SHOULD hear, they aren't "deaf" and "out of touch." I would prefer to ban them entirely, but know that wouldn't be popular. I don't think we should all sit in our offices / cubes all day long and not interact, except by IM and email. If that's the plan, then let's get rid of office space rent entirely and all work from home!

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

There is a lot to be said in favor of that idea, working from home, but that can be a long long discussion thread with pros and cons that are way to accurate.

Amanda Ramharack
Title: Accounts payable manager
Company: Le Pain Quotidien
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounts payable manager, Le Pain Quotidien) |

I manage a team of 4 and I do allow it. I do feel it distracts them, and affects their productivity. But I have one very distracting social butterfly so if anything the headphones allow my team to tune her out. I personally don't use them as I move around the office too much. I'm an in your face manager and if I have a question I walk over. I have 1 extrovert and 2 introverts do I feel like the headphones/music allows them to focus on their work.

Anonymous
(FP&A Manager) |

I have used them myself for an hour or two at a time to tune out nearby conversations and focus on the task at hand, so I can see their merits. If over-used (or used to daydream) they can be a distraction and make the office disconnected. Just have an open conversation about it and highlight both sides of the issue.

Anonymous
(Senior Accountant ) |

I am with you on this one. We work in cubicles, and have those few loud social butterflies from other departments, which may be need to drown out, to focus on the task at hand. I use them at my desk as needed, but don't walk around with them in the office.

Kate West
Title: Consulting CFO
Company: The C Corps
(Consulting CFO, The C Corps) |

As a highly engaged CFO, I would not ban the use of headphones: like others here, I use them on occasion to help me focus. When I noticed one of my team members liked to use headphones as well, I engaged her in conversation: does that help you focus; to what do you like to listen; etc. Knowing that it's often difficult to multi-task (and our favorite music with words can affect our attention), I offered a suggestion to my team member: when I need to really focus, I listen to a Pandora station called Electronic for Studying Radio. It's not classical which can put you to sleep, but it also doesn't have words that can be distracting.

I also suggested to the whole team that we limit the amount of time each day to just the work that needed extra attention to details. I told the team, "One of the great things about working together in the office is that we can hear what's going on around us, and each piece of information adds to our collective knowledgebase that builds on our value as a resource to the business. It's easier to cross-train on a process than to cross-train general knowledge, but we gain general knowledge by working together as a team."

I hope that helps. Great insight and suggestions from others as well!

Deborah Crockett
Title: Human Resources Manager
Company: PowerRail Distribution Inc.
(Human Resources Manager, PowerRail Distribution Inc.) |

We allow one ear bud, or a broadcast device on low volume. This permits employees to listen to mood-setting music, etc. but not be inaccessible to other employees. We didn't allow any headphones until about 2 years ago, but most people listen to music on the smartphone nowadays and don't necessarily have speakers, so this was a good compromise for us. I believe the benefits balance the drawbacks.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Here's a wrench! Would you ban noise cancelling headphones?

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

We always allowed them but it was because people enjoy different music genres and when your offices are all close together it can be very distracting having to listen to someone else's music selection. We would always take time however and engage in friendly conversation and at one point had a weekly lunch date. We would all bring our lunch and eat in one office or all go out once a month and eat together. Music can help a lot with a mundane task or just to keep you from being distracted by office noise.

2921 views
Topics

Get Free Membership

By signing up, you will receive emails from Proformative regarding Proformative programs, events, community news and activity. You can withdraw your consent at any time. Contact Us.

Business Exchange

Browse the Business Exchange to find information, resources and peer reviews to help you select the right solution for your business.

Learn more

Contribute to Community

If you’re interested in learning more about contributing to your Proformative community, we have many ways for you to get involved. Please email content@proformative.com to learn more about becoming a speaker or contributing to the blogs/Q&A Forum.