Forgot your password?

Do You Need Headphones While Working?

Displaying poll results.
I get nothing done without headphones
  2183 votes / 9%
I do better work with headphones, but can survive without them
  5829 votes / 24%
I use them only in certain circumstances
  6298 votes / 26%
  4128 votes / 17%
They tend to hurt more than they help
  1165 votes / 4%
I can't stand working with headphones on
  1577 votes / 6%
Would trade them for an eject button on my officemate's chair
  2580 votes / 10%
23760 total votes.
[ Voting Booth | Other Polls | Back Home ]
  • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
  • Feel free to suggest poll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past polls first.
  • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Rounding errors, ballot stuffers, dynamic IPs, firewalls. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Do You Need Headphones While Working?

Comments Filter:
  • by riflemann (190895) <> on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @05:40PM (#45273569)

    What better way to tell your cow-orkers "dont bug me right now".

    Of course, it won't really filter out the annoying people, they'll just tap your shoulder.

    • I was going to be in Deep Hack mode for a while. I wrote "ICMP.code = 1, UNREACHABLE" on a neon pink sticky note and stuck it onto my headphones. An hour later, I was juggling about 20 modules' worth of state when a coworker started tapping me on the shoulder. I tried to ignore him, but he kept it up until I lost track of everything and gave up. I turned to him.

      "Ha ha! That's really funny! Did you make that?"

      My other coworkers later reported that they'd never heard such a torrent of well-deserved profanity before that day.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        My supervisor always used to just walk into my cubicle and start talking. The worst was when he came in and started talking to me while I was typing an email and my brain just locked up - I couldn't think straight to finish my email and I couldn't register a word he was saying. I started wearing headphones as a defensive mechanism to prevent brain-lock. Of course, he still used to come in and talk to me while I had my headphones on but at least I couldn't hear him and then he had to repeat himse

      • The main reaction I would get from that is questions: "what is that? What does it mean?"
    • For phone calls, I need either a headset or speakerphone, and when I'm at an office with other people or lab with noisy hardware, or working at home and my wife's around, the speakerphone's impractical. I used to be on the phone for an average of 2-3 hours a day; with my current work it's usually a bit less, but there's still a lot.
      And switching between different kinds of headsets is annoying, so I usually don't bother.

      Noise-cancelling headsets are nice if I'm not going to talk to people much. The

    • In our cleanroom, some of us use noise-canceling headphones without anything playing to filter out vacuum pump noise, etc.

      They work quite well to filter out the industrial noise, but they still allow you to hear alarms and co-workers talking, so better and safer than regular hearing protection earmuffs or plugs.
      • by xaxa (988988)

        Try the kind of earplugs they sell to musicians, concert-goers, etc. I spent about £15 on some, since I go to a lot of gigs, and they block out the sound evenly. Headphones aren't designed to protect your hearing, so personally I wouldn't trust them.

    • I definitely have used headphones to create a private work space for myself in a cubicle/office music sometimes...

      To me, the problem is the whole "Open floor plan" trend in office design

      It's fine for people like a police detective or data entry or some PR team, but for people doing complex individual based desk-bound work, the open floor plan is a disaster.

      Lowly grad students are given their own Research Carrel even at least. It's windowless but its **private**...human nature demands privac

    • Mine just stand around in a group at the edge of my vision until I stop my podcast and look over to them. There is much to be said for offices with doors that close.

  • Audio books (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NIK282000 (737852) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @05:41PM (#45273573) Homepage Journal

    As an electrician I don't need to talk to anyone for the majority of my day, with a set of cheap-o bluetooth headphones I go through about a book a week.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      I wonder what the comprehension rate of material is under those conditions.

      • by NIK282000 (737852)

        Its usually pretty good. After listening to a book at work I can recall all the major and minor plot points or short stories in their entirety, 1950's sci-fi short stories are by far the best translated to audiobook format. They are already written in a radio-drama format so hearing them read out loud sounds very natural.

  • by bossk538 (1682744) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @05:48PM (#45273629)

    I find myself unable to multitask. Either I am listening to music (mostly classical) and all my mental resources are allocated to hearing what is going on (melodies, harmonies, motives, structure, etc.), or I am involved in work-related activities (coding, coming up with solutions to software engineering problems, reading specs, keeping abreast with subject matter, etc.) that require full concentration. For situations that don't require full concentration, such as testing, the music is distracting.

    • by FridayBob (619244)
      Indeed, it's been over two decades since I came to the realization that I always work slower if there is any kind of music playing in the background. Music that disagrees with me makes me irritable, while music that I like only makes me want to listen more closely, pick up my instrument and play along. Moreover, so many forms of music, especially when repeated over and over again on the radio, can result in earworms that irritate me long after the music has stopped (perhaps this is why I find jazz so appeal
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        I think that a lot of people insist that they work better with music, when they really don't. I think they find the music enjoyable, so it's a nice escape from work, and therefore need to justify listening to music. Personally, I find that I'm much better at tuning out talk radio or talk podcasts than I am at tuning out music. There are other tasks I can do well while listening to music. But they are not the kind of tasks that required deep thought. Stuff like exercising (especially), doing dishes, or mu
        • Pffft. I work much better with the headphones on, no contest.
          Maybe I should try to do something else than DJing, though.

    • by Zemran (3101)

      I think you need to go to east Asia and learn to meditate... Learn to stop that control freak mind and let your mind really relax. It is better for you and you will actually find that you will work better.

      • Combination of the parent post and yours implies that "being able to multitask = work better". Which is bollocks. Multitasking is a nightmare, at least to me. I perform best when I can concentrate, and I mean: TRULY concentrate, upon one and only one topic. [ written while doing something else, BTW ]
        • by PhilHibbs (4537)

          "being able to multitask = work better" may not be a general rule, but if it works for some people, why not? Maybe you are great at single-tasking, maybe you get as much done single-tasking as others get done multi-tasking, good for you if so. Personally, I am most productive when I have two or three things to do. I get on with one of them, the easiest one, while my subconscious untangles the tricky ones, occasionally asking my conscious mind for a bit of help so I stop what I am doing and think for a bit.

        • It depends on what you are doing. I work just fine listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre when I am doing work that is more physical than mental (eg, cutting paper and feeding things into a laminator, running network cable and power cords, etc), However, while doing database querying, or documentation... forget it.
        • by geekoid (135745)

          The difference between you and others is that you are not fooling yourself.

          AS has been shown many times, multitasking is not efficient.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        I think you need to learn some critical thinking skills.

    • by Psyborgue (699890)
      I find music with lyrics to be distracting sometimes (it depends on the lyrics sometimes), but electronic or classical tends to boosts my productivity.
      • by AugstWest (79042)

        Same here. Piano concertos are for days when I really need to work through some big ideas, otherwise it's Chinese Man, Thievery Corp or the like.

        I have Pandora/Spotify stations all trained up for either mood. I also have a standing desk, so if I look up at people as they pass they always stop and ask if I'm DJing.

        Lesson learned: Don't make eye contact.

        • by AugstWest (79042)

          I also often use Ambience [] pretty regularly, creating mixes of birds chirping, streams running by, etc. to keep my mind alert. There's no natural light where I work, so any little bit helps.

    • by master_kaos (1027308) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @11:23AM (#45280735)
      I ALWAYS have my headphones on, even if I am not listening to anything -- they are noise cancelling so it drowns out a lot of the background noise.
      If I am just doing routine coding I need music. I don't actively listen to it, it's just there. I couldn't tell you the song that previously played.

      If there is problem I am struggling with to solve I need to turn off the music otherwise it is a distraction, as I need all my attention focused on solving the problem.
      I will also shut my office door. A shut office door at our work is a massive DO NOT DISTURB, basically the building better be on fire if you dare even knocking on the door; if something is super urgent a phone call is allowed, otherwise email. However the shut door policy shouldn't be abused i.e you better be in a meeting, on an important call, or working on a hard problem, not just doing your routine work.
    • When you need to concentrate more, turn down the volume on the music to the point where it doesn't distract you. That's what works for me.

      It's especially useful for miserable boring projects, where the task is more to pay attention to what you need to do than to figure out how to do it.
    • It only says wear headphones nothing about playing anything. Headphones are great just for getting casual interruptions to go away. Someone has to get your attention visually, and wait for you to take hte headphones off, which is more than most people are willing to endure (and if they do it once, they usually won't come back for a second dose).

      The trick is to make it all a big production, even if you hear them and know they're waiting. 30 seconds of feigned ignorance, then they get impatient and wave or ta

  • I had one guy that would always come and want to regale me with some BS story about flying helicopters, or blowing up shit in his backyard, or how he hacked into NASAs computer system. It was cute at first, but seriously, how much of that crap can anybody take. Anyway, I tried the whole, "I'm so busy and in the zone, I have my headphones on" thing. And not ear buds. Complete, over the ear, cushioned isolation. The stupid sunnuvabitch lifts the fucking thing off my ear to say "hey, guess what?" I wanted to t
  • . . . the only noise, is your own.

    • by SoupGuru (723634)


    • by fatphil (181876)
      Home office, yeah, but sometimes my g/f gets to the hifi before I do in the morning. Headphones not needed by either of us, we like the same stuff, and can both work in the presence of music. Nothing but the finest biamped Arcam Alphas (hand modified to have more mF in the power output stage) feeding some lovely handmade Snells. Being the CTO, I designed the office layout - and my desk is the one symmetrically between the speakers.
    • by artor3 (1344997)

      All the more reason to have music playing,

  • Can't wear them. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @06:04PM (#45273831)
    As soon as I am wearing the headphones my brain decides that we are listening to music now, and nothing else. Strangely listening to music on speakers does not have this effect. But as soon as I put on the headphones, work is done.
    • The same thing happens to me. I think it's a function of detail -- I don't have good speakers, but I have phenomenal headphones. I can't hear the detail on the speakers, so it doesn't draw me in.

      This also means I don't experience this with simpler, repetitive music like EDM. Give me something orchestral, though, and I'll catch myself closing my eyes to focus on it and lap up every tiny detail.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      my brain decides that we are listening to music now, and nothing else

      Try a white-noise generator for a while, instead.

      Android phone? []

  • I can't stand working with headphones on most of the time.

    I still use them when it's better than hearing all the background noise.

  • I believe I get a little bit of TMS ( [] ) from them, which might explain all these exceptional drawings of horses that I keep making from memory.
  • by djbckr (673156) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @06:41PM (#45274209)

    I got these [] along with a cheap set of Samsung earbuds. Put the mold in your ear, and while it's soft put the earbuds in. After it hardens, drill a hole to the ear canal. I used a dremel with a 1/8 inch bit. Naturally, don't drill while it's in your ear. (sorry, but I know somebody's going to troll on that)

    I love them. They are unobtrusive, comfortable, don't fall out, and are inexpensive. Best of all, they sound great.

    • by dwightk (415372)

      everything I've ever tried that is in-ear gets slowly (sometimes quickly) pushed out of my ear-canal... I might try these sometime if I get $20 to burn :D

  • But I've had to insist a few office-mates wear them, in the past.

    • The guy who sits behind me listens to earphones, but when he gets up, he leaves them on the desk, so I get that you-can-barely hear it noise coming from behind me. Often it takes me a while to work out where it's coming from and I wonder what I'm hearing.

      Actually, while I was typing that, he walked off, and I guess he accidentally unplugged them as he was getting up or something, as it went up to full volume. Less making me think I'm crazy, but definitely more distracting.

  • I have no annoying co-worker's voices to annoy me. I put the music loudly, very, when I want it, I had dead silence when I want it.

    Headphones? Give me a 10" sub-woofer instead.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      Pretty much came here to say this. I have a good pair of IEMs for when I'm not at home, but nothing beats the comfort and sound of a decent pair of speakers.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Headphones? Give me a 10" sub-woofer instead.

      <Crocodile Dundee>Subwoofer? You call that a subwoofer? (Pulls out Marshall stack with 30 inch woofers)<Dundee>

      Ten inches isn't a subwoofer, kid. Ten inches is pretty lame for a woofer. Hell, my twelve inch 3 way JBLs only go down to 30 Hz (the old 777s that I used to have that were stolen from me in a burglary had fifteen inch woofers and went down to zero Hertz, but were only flat down to 20 Hz).

      If you want good sound (especially bass) don't buy you

      • Jees, you kids...

        kids? I still have a box of Hollerinth cards somewhere.

  • I only go to work to talk to the people there.

  • The whole point of getting people into an office together is so that they can communicate and get work done faster than if they were all telecommuting. I think headphones hurt that, it's annoying to have to tap people on the shoulder to ask them something. Obviously you shouldn't bug people if you don't have to, but this applies with or without headphones.
    • by Mascot (120795)

      In an office (with actual doors), perhaps, but an open floor plan solution is to save money, not to increase collaboration. All research articles I have noticed over the years conclude that productivity plummets in an open floor plan solution. If there is a job description it is suited for, I have yet to see it mentioned. The upsides of collaboration and camaraderie is obliterated by noise levels and disruptions.

      Personally, I stay home and keep email closed and my phone off if I have something I actually ne

  • I actually like my officemate and his taste in music. But an eject button on your chair would be kinda cool.

  • Someone who had absoloutely no idea that programmers need quiet and no interuptions had the development team in one aisle of cubes with the next aisle over populated by sales and marketing. It REALLY helped to have headphones. On the other hand, the sales wonks did a lot of international travel including to some third world countries where they were exposed to some interesting native cuisine. It gave me a whole new appreciation of hearing someone say, "Tastes like chicken."


    • killed and ate the marketdroids?!

      • killed and ate the marketdroids?!

        Nah. Like the A.C. response, "Yuck!" They're full of bull shit and hot air. Definitely not tasty.

        On the other hand, vegetarians are quite tasty (with a little bar-b-que sauce or other appropriate toppings).


  • by JeffTL (667728) on Tuesday October 29, 2013 @11:40PM (#45276513)
    ....considering as I am a salesman. If I or my customers are wearing headphones it gets in the way.
  • Listening to metal makes me more efficient. However, my officemates do not have the same music taste, and even when the colleague that isn't bothered by metal is the only other in the office I have to play a different playlist then the one I use for working at max efficiency for myself.
    I am planning to check if Amaranthe (a cross between dance or something like that and metal) is suitable to all. If that works I would expand that with the correct tracks from Delain, Lacuna Coil and perhaps some works by R
  • ...that headphones can only be used to listen to RECORDINGS of music ? And that the word "music", as director Celibidache so often stressed, is only applicable to live music ?
    • That's odd. I use headphones with my amp to practice guitar late into the night without disturbing the neighbors. It sure seems like live music to me.
  • Why would I need headphones? I've got my own office now! ^_^

    That said, I do listen to music more or less constantly, and most of the time I can't function nearly as well without it. There are certain times, though, when I'm trying to get my brain through some particularly convoluted chain of logic that I'll need to code, that the music, for whatever reason, suddenly becomes a distraction.

    Dan Aris

  • by realsilly (186931) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:42AM (#45278473)

    I'm all for the headphones at work.

    When I see someone wearing them, I assume that they are heads down solving a problem and because of the intensity of the problem they need privacy. The headphones is a unobtrusive way to make that point.

    When companies have the Future at Work scenario or cubicles with no private offices sometimes there is just way too much distracting noise. Many people do work well in that environment, but for others the headsets allow one to dampen the white noise, or change it to a white noise that is more suitable f one's purpose. And honestly, if it increase productivity in the workplace, then I would encourage it for more people.

  • I work with a headset on all day, so it's kinda hard for me to do my job without "headphones".
  • "Whaaaat? I can't hear you!"

    On a vaguely related note I wonder if conventional earplugs (not earphones) might damage hearing from loud internal noises like coughs because the internally generated sound energy may not escape the ear as easily.
  • I actually work better without (read: in silence), but when there are 3 discussions going on at the same time on the work-floor, it's sometimes better to pump up the volume.
  • i.e. when I want to listen to something and not annoy everyone around me.

    • by dwightk (415372)

      speaking of which, the other day someone was watching a youtube video on their phone in a restroom stall... without headphones. Is that a thing now? I hope not.

  • Why can't someone make a Bluetooth capable set of ear protection that works with the iPod that doesn't cost a fortune.. The ear bud cables keep getting snagged in my work. I've used a set of Bluetooth ear buds and put ear protectors over them but they were too bulky and uncomfortable and quit working after a week anyway. I see a lot of inexpensive Bluetooth speakers and can't understand why it's so hard to make something similar for are protectors.
  • I work IT support and admin, I use speakers so I can hear music and people when they come to my office for help. When I'm not on the clock and working in an environment with other people independently I use headphones so I can hear my music and not disturb anyone else.
  • I type medical transcription for a living. Without headphones I'm pretty much fucked because I'm not only violating HIPAA, but I also can't hear the subtle nuances in some folks' voices, especially when dealing with English as a second language speakers. I just had a laptop go dead on me, leaving me not willing to spend more to repair it, so while I waited for a cheap replacement I worked on an older laptop that didn't have bluetooth, so I couldn't use my headset with it. I dealt without the headset for a b

  • If stretching out your arms will hit two cow-orkers, several of them are talking on the phone, or to each other... and if you've got low-walled or no cubicles (forget about real walls), then my productivity is about as high as it would be if you were slapping me in the face every few seconds, without some kind of masking sounds pumped-in to mask the distractions. Muzak-style is fine, but headphones are okay if your office doesn't have the foresight to install that.

    Headphones with no audio playing is okay,

  • Not technically headphones, they do (like headphones) make it impossible to hear the mindless blather, personal attacks and odious office politics.
  • Work from home and crank it up!

  • by methano (519830) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @09:47AM (#45289907)
    I work in a lab doing chemistry things. If someone has an explosion or a fire, it's important that you can hear their screams and, I guess, the fire alarm too. For that reason, headphones are usually banned in a lab environment where you work with pyrophoric materials.
  • ...with the beyerdynamic earpads. Does an exceptional job and creating a cone of silence. My office is a half-height cube farm and it feels like a share a larger office-space with kindergarteners. The slightest bit of external stimulus creates a positive feeback loop of jack-assery, and in the worst cases there are two different threads of jack-assery to my right and left.

    As a concrete example, the other day was a convo-argument about a guy selling monkeys out of a van which involved at least 8 of my co-wor

  • Headphones (or background music or ...) are known to impair left-brain::right-brain coordination in one's thinking -- especially important for activities needing both creative and analytic thinking.
  • Foreigners (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JustLikeToSay (651328) on Friday November 01, 2013 @10:46AM (#45300241)
    I go to a lot of EU meetings in Brussels on behalf of the UK Govt. Like many English speakers I can order beer in a number of other European languages but usually a stronger grasp of the language is needed to understand the technical and policy comments made by my Austrian, French, German, Italian and Spanish colleagues (all of whom are under instruction to speak only in their native languages) - so it's on with the headphones to get the translation. It's my ambition to provide a contribution to the discussion in one of the other EU languages before I'm done - to see the momentarily baffled looks on my colleagues' faces and watch them scrabble to get their headphones on before I've finished.

"Buy land. They've stopped making it." -- Mark Twain


Forgot your password?