Is it professional to wear headphones at work?

Headphones at work

For many, wearing headphones at work can be helpful, but for some it’s seen as unprofessional, unsociable or even rude.

It can be tricky to work out the best way to keep everyone happy, so we’ve put together some advice to help you gauge whether you’re in the right or wrong situation to stick in some headphones in the office:


Listening to music aids productivity

Listening to music can help you focus at work. Familiar music, for example, can help you stay on task for a long time, whilst drowning out distractions in a large, open office can boost productivity levels. If you feel you need to do just that, you could put a motivational track on the office music system, for the benefit of everyone.

If, however, your taste in motivational music isn’t suiting others, just let your boss and team know that you’re plugging in to get an important piece of work out of the way. Explaining that listening to music through headphones helps you get in the zone reassures everyone else in the office that you’re not making a judgement about the other distractions. A shared understanding promotes a much healthier working environment.

Wearing headphones cuts you off from the rest of the office

Even if your colleagues understand exactly why listening to music can boost your productivity, some may still see it as antisocial or unprofessional. In an open office, where there is constant work-related, cross-desk chatter, not keeping one ear open could frustrate co-workers who would like to hear your opinion from time to time. 

Keeping your music at a low volume, or only sticking in one earphone, is a nice way to listen to your favourite tunes while you work, whilst remaining friendly and professional at the same time. Otherwise, fellow employees who must wave and shout every time they’d like your attention could become frustrated. 

Also, don’t underestimate the positive effect music can have on productivity and morale in an office when it’s played aloud so everyone can share the experience. Getting everyone involved in creating  ‘Monday Motivation’ or ‘New Music Friday’  playlists, for example, is a great way to find out more about what makes your colleagues tick.

Wearing headphones signals that you’re busy

There are some occasions where engaging in polite office conversation really isn’t practical. Say, for example, it’s the last day of July and the big monthly report is due. Being distracted by those around you, even if they’re discussing workplace matters, can push you off track and your to-do list will take much longer to get through. In these situations, putting on a pair of headphones and letting everyone know that you’re too busy to talk can really help. After all, getting through a vital piece of work on time is about as professional as you can get.


Loud music can annoy colleagues around you

We’ve all sat in the ‘quiet zone’ of a train carriage, only to be irritated by the tinny sound coming out of the person next to us’ headphones. The same can happen in an office, and the music playing through your headphones can be especially noticeable to your neighbour if the office is quiet. Irritating your colleagues probably isn’t the best way to go about being professional, so make sure that you’re considerate and check in with those around you.

Wearing headphones can decrease stress levels

A little light music never hurt anybody, but sadly not everyone in the office will agree on the genre, so if you do want to listen to something that isn’t so popular with your colleagues then headphones might be your best bet. If music makes you feel happier, it will give you a positive outlook on your work and help you get everything done on time. Being in a good frame of mind can help eliminate stress and the pressure of work, leaving your mind clear to focus on important tasks.

Wearing headphones isn’t appropriate when you’re involved in a team project

This one goes without saying, really. Popping in a pair of headphones while you’re working with a team can seem rude, so it’s best to give your full attention to everyone on the project. Working collaboratively is all about communication, so leave the headphones in your bag while engaged in team projects.

If you do want to listen to music while you work in a group, you can always suggest playing music aloud so that the whole team can focus together. Many people find that music aids productivity, so suggesting a ‘focus’ playlist could be beneficial for everyone involved.

Being productive and getting your to-do list completed on time is vital for success, so in instances where music can help, plugging in can be a great idea. When working with others or in a less pressured environment though, headphones can be perceived as unprofessional or unsociable. It’s always best to assess the situation and be open to having music played aloud in your workplace as a compromise; you might just find the focus you need without being cut off from the office conversation.



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