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Out of Our Minds
Thursday, April 13, 2006 12:37 PM
Music to my ears
Curt Rosengren on About Work

Music has been part of my work habit for years. It's the soundtrack to my writing, brainstorming, planning, reading, research...you get the picture. If I'm doing it by myself, odds are good I have music playing either on speakers or headphones (right now I'm listening to Tom Waits'  Small Change CD - one of my favorites).

For better or worse, with the advent of the iPod culture music is increasingly becoming a part of the standard workplace landscape.

Some companies are music friendly. Others aren't. Some have valid reasons - operating a forklift with screaming banshee metal music blasting in your ears might not be the safest work habit, for example. And not bothering your co-workers with your music if you share space seems like common courtesy. But other attitudes just mystify me. This one, for example...

"We do not look kindly on anyone who puts on earphones and starts listening to iPods," says Mario Almonte, a vice president at Herman Associates, a New York-based marketing and communications company. "It looks like you're not working, and it's not a professional presentation. It's still a device that distracts you."

It looks like you're not working! Ha! I suspect that I would last all of two seconds in an environment like that.

How about you? Do you listen to music while you work? Do the people you work with? Does it have a valid role to play in the workplace, or is it frivolous and distracting?


Monica Ricci - 5/7/2006 11:30:15 AM
I agree that in many cases, wearing headphones in an office environment can actually increase productivity for those who are easily distracted by the conversation of others and other ambient office noise. (That would be me... thankfully I work out of my home!) Because I am very auditory, apparently, music is distracting to me when I'm working. I sit in my home office all day in complete silence and I love it. Now, don't get me wrong... I adore music. If it's the weekend and I'm just hanging out at home and not working then I'll always have music on, and in the car, I listen to my iPod. But for some reason, I really like the dead quiet when I'm in my office. ~Monica
Mark Sicignano - 4/14/2006 11:14:02 PM
Oh... Ya... Music is a must while I'm working, in particular when there is noise around. Just about any music is better than the alternative of hearing conversations, one side of phone calls, or people goofing off 20 feet away... However, even when I'm working from home, I feel that music is helpful as well sometimes. But not pop/rock/etc. I get the tendency to "get too into it" and it can become a distraction. I like quiet music, classic jazz, classical/baroque, ambient music... It should be quiet... Not too loud.
Mark Sicignano - 4/14/2006 11:03:08 PM
What I was going to say, George already beat me to. But I was going to be harsher about it. Upper management in many places that I've worked refuses to provide an environment conducive to productivity, and then when people try to make it a workable environment as best as they can, you get stupid rules from managers like, "headphones make it look like you're not working, and it's not a professional appearance, so you can't do it." It's just classic Dilbertonian management. "I'm sorry. We cannot permit you to be productive. If you continue to try, corrective action will be taken. Now please just try to look professional, OK?" If you haven't already, you must read Peopleware, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister.
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 4/13/2006 10:23:41 PM
Music fills my soul: it is my passion and my source of inspiration. If I don't listen to music when I am writing or thinking of writing I am sunk...If I get really stuck I pull out my accoustic guitar and play a bit....I'm not good but I love to try....Tom Waites, The B Good Tanyas, Feist, Manu Chau, The great Sarah McL, Neil Young, classic Beatles, Robert Johnson, Arlo and Woody,Leonard Cohen and KD doing "Hallejujah" you name it, it's on my list. Keep on rockin in the free world! Living la vida fearless, Jan
George - 4/13/2006 4:07:46 PM
Music on headphones is an unfortunate necessity in a cubicle environment, where you can hear everything 20-odd people around you say and do. It makes tuning out all the constant distractions somewhat easier. Whoever claims that cubicles "promote productivity" is full of Bandini!
Kate - 4/13/2006 3:11:20 PM
At the offices where I do most of my work nowadays, satellite radio plays all day long. When someone puts their headphones on, that's a signal that they're really concentrating and working hard! Sometimes, when I am working in a coffee shop, I'll put in my headphones but not actually play everything: it's my mobile office equivalent of a "Closed" sign.
Catherine Howell - 4/13/2006 1:16:07 PM
I can listen to music when I am: Writing (new age or something instrumental) Doing emails (I put my iTunes library on shuffle) Cleaning my desk (anything with a great rhythm) I cannot listen to music when I am: Proof-reading Talking on the phone


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