What's your firm's stance on headphones?


Speaking as someone who is literally addicted to music and needs it 10 hours a day minimum, headphones have become a job requirement for me. Some places frown on this (and I frown on them), while others encourage it and sometimes have music playing on a stereo. What's the consensus here?

Jan 17, 06 12:18 am

Depends on what you're doing. Our office allows music in one ear, but absolutely no talk radio, etc... I don't like the headphones unless I am cranking. That's just me though. I like to listen to the conversations in the office.

Jan 17, 06 12:41 am

music in one ear?? no talk radio??? That's crazy! I've never worked anywhere you couldn't do what you wanted, as long as it was within reason (I think as long as you can hear someone near you and no one can hear your music, you should be able to do whatever you wanted). in one hear...ha!

Jan 17, 06 8:10 am

when i worked at som it was frowned upon to wear headphones during normal work hours. (it was also frowned upon for men not to wear ties.) additionally, my supervisor disallowed headphones at any time while we were working on the grounds that "you need to focus on your work". she actually was an incredible boss except for that one rule. when she'd go home on came the studio monitors.

at my previous job headphones were like shoes, you had to wear them to work. my boss had a, annoying...voice and he used to have very loud phone conversations. as well, we had an open office and the meetings were just intolerably loud. and, there wasn't a whole lot of coordination among the juniors.

now we have rhapsody and i find it's a nice balance. we can listen to music but not be oblivious to what's going on around us. i've been exposed to a lot of new music, too.

Jan 17, 06 8:12 am

i absolutely can't focus on my work without having my headphones on.

Jan 17, 06 8:25 am

Listening to other people's phone conversations drives me INSANE, so they help with that too.

Jan 17, 06 8:38 am

my firm generally looks down on headphones, but we're all in one small room (28'x22') and the principal plays opera and classical all morning, i cant work with it. I have to put the phones on with my own tunes or i get very irritable. Its actually amazing ow much more productiv i am with pleasurable music.

Jan 17, 06 9:13 am

my firm generally looks down on headphones, but we're all in one small room (28'x22') and the principal plays opera and classical all morning, i cant work with it. I have to put the phones on with my own tunes or i get very irritable. Its actually amazing ow much more productiv i am with pleasurable music.

Jan 17, 06 9:13 am

i recognize from the start that opinion on this issue is likely to form along generational lines - neverhtheless, let me put forward the proposition that a great deal of what's really valuable in most studios occurs through the interaction of individuals - some of that is direct conversation between two or more people - however, much "osmosis learning" takes place simply by observing what's going on and listening in on other conversations - i, and many of my dinosaur colleagues, lament the trend towards audio isolation as a withdrawal from studio life - you want to learn, put down the headphones and listen to what's happening around you

let the pounding begin ...

Jan 17, 06 9:55 am

here they dont mind, but they think that we who do this, are antisocial freaks.

Jan 17, 06 10:09 am

i wear headphones probably 4 hours per day. can't imagine anyone having a problem with it. seems silly to me for a firm to have an official stance on it.

Jan 17, 06 10:10 am

Well, that's the firm's policy. There is no way they know what we are listening to. Now that I think about it, the one earphone thing is probably just me. My boss yells out to me every 5-10 minutes (it seems) to come to his office (get your own faxes!), and I can't hear him with both in. Just saves me some headaches. I also like the osmosis factor. We are all in a smallish room, and detail and drawing conversations, news about what is going on with projects that are being built, etc... goes on all the time. Kind of like being in the know.

Jan 17, 06 10:23 am

We've discussed it, and have decided not to have an official stance on it, and some of the interns do wear headphones sometimes.
But that having been said, we'd really prefer that they didn't. This is a small office, all in one room, and a lot of what goes on is best heard the first time, firsthand. Ironically a former intern used who used to gripe about "not being included in the design process" was missing out on the design process mainly because she tuned everything out and rarely looked up from her screen all day.
If it's a choice between being intolerably distracted by others' phone calls and such all day or wearing headphones - then I can accept that as individual preference/sensitivity. But I'd rather have everyone involved/engaged in everything that's going on, if possible.

Jan 17, 06 10:23 am

Headphones are ok, though the office's music selection is pretty damn good. Very laid back atmosphere. Boss has freakin' great taste in music. I go to work and get a music lesson - but I digress. Headphones are ok.

Occasionally we listen to talk radio, but I find it hard to hear over all of the other noises in the office.

Jan 17, 06 10:33 am
liberty bell

I agree with you babs - to a point. For young interns overhearing phone conversation with contractors etc. is a fantastic way to learn. And it is an important component of the "studio life" that everyone, especially in a small firm, knows what is going on.

But when there's a deadline, and you have to pump cad as fast and furious as possible, headphones are not only appropriate but helpful. IMO.

Jan 17, 06 10:34 am

I work in an office of 2, and we play it out loud! Sometimes headphones if working alone @ night, out of respect for the residents next door sleeping. Right now I'm blasting some Operation Ivy through the office system from my ipod...

Jan 17, 06 10:41 am

lb ... that's primarily why we don't have a formal policy on this at our firm ... we encourage our staff to "unplug ... so they can stay plugged in" but we don't have any rules on the subject

nobody's ever been reprimanded here for listening to music ... we have observed though that those that who stay better connected with the life of the studio are more interested in their work, develop broader skills faster, seem happier, etc.

Jan 17, 06 10:42 am

at som i worked in a studio space with probably 100 other people. they had to pipe in white noise to stop the noise from becoming unbearable. as well, i just learned to tune out practically any conversation or noise that did not specifically include or involve me. however my previous boss was so obnoxious that he was impossible to tune out. whether he was making a tasteless joke or klatching with some coffee buddy, he was intolerable. so on went the headphones.

Jan 17, 06 10:43 am

Although I've never worked in a place that had a policy that banned or discouraged headphones, as I get older tend to wear them less and less. Right out of college when I was spending most of my time behind AutoCad it was easy to spend most of the day listening to something. More and more as my responsibilities increased there was just less time to listen. I'm up and moving around far too much. Off to meetings, running to answer questions from my CAD techs, on the phone constantly, etc. About the only time I really listen and work now is when I'm redlining a set and relax to some jazz or classical. Often times I do that late at night while at home anyway.

I don't think companies should discourage it. When working in CAD all day it didn't reduce productivity for me and it helped me focus on the job at hand. I do agree that there is much to be learned through osmosis. Then again, as I've found, it's a natural progression to take off the headphones as the job tasks change - when you really need to learn through osmosis. If I didn't want anyone listening to music at work I wouldn't have them sitting at a desk beind a computer all day.

Jan 17, 06 10:52 am

everyone has emotional, mental, and physical needs that can't be met by looking at a screen all day. yet even in some of the most liberal offices people are expected to just shut off most of those needs and fully dedicate themselves to their work. for me, having the headphones is a little bit of a diversion that allows me to fulfill intellectual needs that simply aren't met by drawing wall sections all day. by having the headphones i've been able to listen to a lot of new music that i probably would have missed otherwise, i've been able to keep up on world affairs by listening to npr and talk radio, and i've discovered new literature by listening to audiobooks. i rarely turn up the volume loud enough that it makes me miss out on what's happening around me. i usually don't wear headphones to drown out what's going on around me, but to add another layer of enrichment.

as for anyone who would frown upon wearing headphones...aren't the reasons i've described for wearing my headphones basically the same reasons all of us read this board?

Jan 17, 06 11:19 am

We are a headphones verboten office. Our teams require so much collaboration it really screws things up.

Jan 17, 06 11:21 am

Thankfully there is always music playing in the studio, and occasionally talk radio/news. There is an incredibly wide variety of music, most of it great. I have picked up a huge amount of music i would never have heard otherwise and still get to listen to main stream stuff like led zeppelin. Everyone has a say (unless its really bad) and no one plays crap that they know other people won't like. I guess thankfully everyone has at least somewhat similar musical taste. One new guy listens to music and fox news (which is probably why he keeps it on the low down) on headphones, and its annoying to yell at him to get his attention but no one cares really. I hate wearing headphones here, tried it once didn't work, its a small office and everyone yells across it to each other, and when the office manager isn't there is phone answering by committee. I learn far more listening to conversations that have nothing to do with me than anything else. I can't imagine not listening in, i would feel totally clueless with what’s happening.

Jan 17, 06 11:44 am

i've had headphones at every office i've worked in...(6 now). at my
current office most wear headphones (6 people) but one person plays
her music outloud semi softly..and the principle sometimes plays his
music outloud...

most offices i've worked in have been relatively i listen
to npr or talk radio cause i go crazy without some sort of conversation..
i find i also crank better with headphones on...i keep one headphone
semi on my ear so i can hear anything that's goin on...

Jan 17, 06 12:12 pm

my only problem with not wearing headphones in this office is the NPR issue...i make a concerted effort in life to dissociate myself from as much non-print news media as i can, especially american non-print news media, and the last thing i want from 4 to 6 each day is to have the same news stories repeated over...and over...and over. but it's not even that big a problem since once again i can usually tune it out.

Jan 17, 06 12:44 pm
Ms Beary

It is interesting to note how often it is mentioned above that listening to the airwaves of the office conversation is a good way to pick up what is going on around the office and pick up on ways-of-doing, talking the talk etc. I regret spending a few years in an office where all staff was cooped up in sound absorbant cubicles and principal's/architect's offices were secluded, you had to knock and get the 'nod' to enter. If they were on the phone or with someone, you politely waited outside the door. I rarely heard anything that wasn't said directly to me. I also complained about being out of the loop.

Interesting also to note, same office had a no headphones policy...

I enjoy the office noise that I get to hear now in the studio environment. Sometimes I wear headphones to zone out a bit. Sometimes I listen to the office environs. I love how I can yell out a question and everyone is within earshot and will answer if they can help. This suits me so much better!!

Jan 17, 06 5:50 pm

office before last - good radio stations and choice of music on cd's. no conversations really going on as ther was hardly ever anyone in the office at the same time.

last office - the radio station choices were simply unbearable. constantly repeating the same thing over and over again. it got to the point where i became visibly frustrated when some songs would come on. i tried to where headphones as much as possible to keep my sanity. i wasn't missing much either when it came to conversation, because there really wasn't any. i tried to keep the headphones off as much as possible since i was generally asked quite a few questions throughout the day, and i didn't want to make people feel like i was tuning them out.

current office - conversation is key between us all, and we all like the same music so we let it pump out of the speakers. when we move offices, we will most likely be playing it louder than now (currently sharing space, with my last office no less).

all being said, when i put on headphones and the right music, i in effect ensure that i am in the zone. even when noboday is home, i'd rather put on my headphones than play something over the speakers. they are liking my blinders keeping me focused.

Jan 17, 06 9:31 pm
vado retro

try kahn's headphones...

Jan 17, 06 10:06 pm

funny thing happened to me once, in the office i usually had my earphones on. one day the principal who sat behind me called my name a few times and got no response from me. so, headphones=bad.

Sep 2, 06 7:31 am

my office has a headphone ban. i found it weird at first, but now pretty used to it.

Sep 2, 06 8:22 am
I agree with you babs - to a point. For young interns overhearing phone conversation with contractors etc. is a fantastic way to learn. And it is an important component of the "studio life" that everyone, especially in a small firm, knows what is going on.

But when there's a deadline, and you have to pump cad as fast and furious as possible, headphones are not only appropriate but helpful. IMO.

Agreed. Expecially were I sit, my project manager and one of the other guys are constanly arguing/talking about music and tv shows in a loud voice. We need the headphones to be abble to produce.
Sep 2, 06 11:51 am

My attitude toward headphones is slowly changing. However the more I think about it the more I don’t like them. I agree with Babs on all of it. For interns it is a great way to learn. Over the years I have slacked up a bit. Right now everyone is cranking on deadlines and like the music. However I’d still rather see the fast collaboration that happens in a studio environment.

Furthermore, I am now noticing that the new interns don’t seem as connected or able to chime in their thoughts on the matter. I might consider reintroducing the ban. Yes outside discussions are a distraction but most of fun in life is the education and not the work.

Sep 2, 06 9:57 pm


Sep 3, 06 12:11 am

There's no policy in our firm about this, but it's one of those open-plan firms where a lot of the communication and project coordination happens just as a result of everyone automatically hearing every conversation and phone call. What I've noticed is that the few people who occasionally wear headphones seem to do this as a deliberate signal that either they're very busy and don't want to be disturbed or have to answer the phones that day (we have no office manager or clerical staff to do that) or, more distressingly, that they're trying to convey that they're pissed off/disgruntled that day. I'm ok with the former, but not comfortable with the latter as a way of addressing a problem, since it seems too much like the childhood strategy of "I'm not speaking to you."

Sep 3, 06 2:38 pm

At Takenaka over the summer, it was no headphones between 8:30-5:15. I asked and it was so people could hear each other and their phones. I can see how in an office environment it could be difficult. Based on my school studio experience, I like some of both. I noticed I can only really listen to music if I'm just grinding on something, like doing CAD, rendering, Photoshop. But I can't listen to music (with words) if I'm trying to figure something out. I start drifting off and thinking of other stuff. Actually, I semi take that back. I can't listen to HEADPHONES if I'm trying to think. Stereo is ok.

Sep 3, 06 3:50 pm

what's your office policy regarding Archinect?

Sep 4, 06 3:27 pm

I think maybe headphones are a necessity in offices that have a very open studio, the "anti-cubicle, anti-office" thing going... In our office, you can look around and see the whole room, practically hear every phone conversation, even with headphones on... i think they are valuable as focusing devices.

On the other hand, an open collaborative atmosphere needs to be there in the first place, and headphones shouldn't be on all the time, I think they are generally a polite way of saying "I'm focusing on work"... Which can be otherwise tricky when Everyone in the studio can walk across and approach you...

Sep 5, 06 10:46 am

i personally have worked in both offices where you can not have headphones and can wear headphones

its been my personal experience that i am MUCH more productive when i can put on my headphones and focus.

i find i can focus for longer periods of time when i have the additional stimulus of music or an interesting Terri Gross conversation

i can understand there being an discontent with people who have head phones on all day everyday but would like to play devils advocate a bit here...

if there are interns listening all day everyday, it might be equally symptomatic of a stagnant office as it is the interns desire to be involved in the studio.

Sep 5, 06 12:14 pm

true that |ld|

Sep 5, 06 1:00 pm

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