As a growing number of employers are demanding that workers be in the office for most of the week, a growing number of employees are bringing headphones with them.
It’s not a new trend — workers have been sporting headphones and earbuds in the office for years.
But with feelings still a bit raw over postpandemic return-to-work orders, some see headphone use as a way of tuning out the workplace at a time when businesses are actively promoting camaraderie and being a team player.
“I feel like they’re ignoring me when I’m trying to talk to them,” an administrative assistant named Anna Metcalf told the Wall Street Journal.
She cited the example of an intern at her office who spent much of his days wearing headphones and laughing at videos on his phone. After Metcalf complained to a manager, she said, the intern turned surly.
Many workers, myself included, find headphones a helpful way of alleviating stress and avoiding distractions at work.
But there’s definitely an antisocial aspect to their use.
People wearing headphones are sending a signal that they don’t want to be bothered or even interacted with — not the best way to promote teamwork.
Such folk also force their colleagues to be pushy in getting their attention, waving hands and raising voices. That too isn’t a great way to win friends and influence people.
The Journal cited an organizational-behavior professor at Bond University in Australia who has researched headphone use in offices.
She said her research found that headphones “help employees concentrate in the din of modern open-plan offices.”
Along those lines, one San Francisico software firm, Databricks, gives employees a $300 allowance to buy a decent set of headphones.
But many other businesses are trying to figure out how to respond to the trend.
I say let people wear headphones.
It may be antisocial. But it should be enough for employers to have cubicles full again.
They don’t need to stop you from grooving to Tom Tom Club while you write a blog post.