A frustrated executive recently asked for my opinion about
an admin who spends the entire work day plugged into an iPod. This employee relies on the music player to
get through a long commute. At work
getting her attention to talk about a task means competing with whatever’s on
her playlist. It wasn’t hard for me to
suggest that the headphones come off when work begins.
Before you run out and ban Mp3 players consider your
workplace and policies. You may already
have a policy or practice that allows people to listen to music at their
desk. Many employees like melodies as
background noise from a radio, CD player or their computer as the modern day way
to whistle while you work. A 2006 Harris Interactive Poll found that nearly one
third of employees in the
listened to music on a personal music device while working.
The tell tale ear buds are more common in creative
industries and among younger employees.
Listening to music at work can be a recruitment and retention tool and a
statement about company culture.
If you do allow Mp3 use it is important to be clear about whether
music downloads are allowed at work.
Most employers will prohibit them.
You also don’t want lines of communication and common courtesy damaged
by people who make themselves unavailable for conversation. Collaboration is impossible without two way
conversation even if everyone is listening to the same track.
If the personal music culture conflicts with your culture or
type of business ban the ear buds and tell employees why. Safety reasons may be the most pressing but
don’t forget customers, visitors and co-workers. And when employees tell you, “But everyone
listens to tunes at work,” think about what your mom always said when you told
her, “everyone is…”