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People wearing ear plugs in the workplace

(157 Posts)
PatriarchyPersonified Tue 13-Feb-18 11:25:56

I probably am being unreasonable but...

Random one this one. I work in an open plan office that probably contains about 30 people on a busy day, in an area the size of two tennis courts. (Roughly).

The only noise is normal day to day activity, low level conversations and the occasional phone call. No machinery or radios etc.

A person who has recently started working here has taken to wearing ear plugs in the office. (Think noise reducing in ear defender type things that are used by people who shoot) when asked why they said it "helps them concentrate".

Now I suppose that's fair enough but this has prompted a couple of other people to start doing the same thing, including wearing old fashioned ear defender type headsets (think 1960s headphones) that block out all external noise.

Now we have three or four (depending on the day) people who are completely cut off from everything but their screens, to the point where you have to wave a hand in front of their face if you want to offer them a tea.

It feels a bit, well, rude.

I feel sorry for the people who have to sit next to them, because they are effectively isolated from any human contact for the entire day.

I can't see it being a management issue, as I don't think they are doing anything wrong technically. But it is making some people feel uncomfortable in work.

Is this normal practice?

namechange012 Tue 13-Feb-18 11:32:07

I know what you mean wearing headphones in the office is a bit like putting a sign up saying 'don't talk to me!'

Having said that, I did used to do this on occasion (just ear buds) when I had a deadline to work to and really needed to concentrate. Unfortunately our office could get a bit noisy (phone calls / people popping in etc) and it was quite difficult when you really did need to concentrate. So much so, my boss also said I could work from home for the week running up to a deadline if needed.

Wearing them all day, every day is quite antisocial I think and can affect the atmosphere. In our office I found it was very much divided on age lines and it was us slightly younger ones who tended to wear them. Is that the case where you work?

Goodadvice1980 Tue 13-Feb-18 11:33:20

Some people where them in my workplace (office), but it is music headphones.

I would personally find ear buds and playing music a bit distracting if I was trying to concentrate on work, but total noise blocking ones does seem a bit extreme! Normal office noise doesn’t bother me.

Will this be raised at a staff meeting?

Would these people hear the fire alarm properly if it went off? Just a thought.

WillBailey Tue 13-Feb-18 11:33:52

I can see in an open plan office why people would do this. My office is open plan (around twenty people) and some people seem to think that the rest of the office likes nothing better than to hear their opinion on everything (the weather, Prince William, mortgages, Syria) at high volume all day, to hear the daily tasks that they're up to or to just hear general blether on and on and on. When it's particularly bad I have to put my iPod on to drown it out.

GhostofFrankGrimes Tue 13-Feb-18 11:35:55

Open plan offices are a pain when trying to concentrate. Lots of people (inc myself) wear earplugs etc in my office. Also drowns out loudmouth colleagues who never stfu.

DaftCat Tue 13-Feb-18 11:36:05

I have misophonia and sometimes wear earplugs or earphones in the lab so drown out the sniffing, throat clearing, tapping and general annoying noises that my colleagues make. Could your colleagues have something like that? It’s horrible. It makes me want to kill them. Wearing ear protection is better than murdering people.

mumzuki Tue 13-Feb-18 11:38:06

Lots of people find background noise makes it much harder for them to process information effectively. So while it is a bit antisocial, but I'd probably just decide not to let it bother me too much.

Nickynackynoodle Tue 13-Feb-18 11:38:44

I wear them all the time in my open plan office. There’s plenty of time to chitchat at lunchtime, if you want to talk to me about my work then I’ll take them out. Otherwise I can get anything done over the constant noise of no work getting done, people with different radio stations on and general idleness.

Gilead Tue 13-Feb-18 11:40:00

I have Asperger Syndrome. I can hear every word of all the different conversations going on. I can hear every keyboard stroke, sniffle, bum shuffle, foot wiggle. It's overwhelming, debilitating, exhausting, anxiety inducing. Add to that the lights are probably strip lights and flickering and then somebody wants me to work as well, noise cancelling headphones are then an absolute necessity.

MarthaArthur Tue 13-Feb-18 11:40:19

How do they answer the phone? So rude. If its small ear buds to drown out some noise to concentrate fine. What about fire alarms?

Schroedingerscatagain Tue 13-Feb-18 11:42:13

Op you are unfortunately being unreasonable

dd has asd and severe misophonia many on the spectrum have varying levels of hyperacussis and ear plugs or defenders are standard reasonable adjustments for their disability in the workplace

Gilead Tue 13-Feb-18 11:42:15

www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/tmi/film.aspx

DaftCat Tue 13-Feb-18 11:42:23

Most fire alarms will easily cut through earbuds

namechange012 Tue 13-Feb-18 11:45:40

Have you raised it at a team meeting OP? This is how it was addressed at my workplace. A couple of people were upset as they felt it was making the office a less friendly place and we all just had a chat about it. It was a good opportunity for people to express both points of view...those of us with deadlines explained to some of the more vocal wink members of the team that noise could be a problem, whilst the same more vocal members of the team explained they wanted a bit of liveliness in the office rather than a boring silent place. After that we all made an effort, headphones for occasional use and chatting but at a lower volume level! Sometimes it's as simple as having a chat and understanding everyone's point of view.

UgandanKnuckles Tue 13-Feb-18 11:46:10

So, people that are there to work... are doing something that helps them to work?

Youshallnotpass Tue 13-Feb-18 11:48:30

I don't have any disabilities but I use headphones in my office. It helps me concentrate and drown out the incessant drone of people chatting while I am trying to get stuff done.

If someone wants to talk to me, they can get my attention easily enough.

YABU

dingdongdigeridoo Tue 13-Feb-18 11:50:22

Open plan offices are hell if you have problems concentrating. There’s always someone wittering away, popping gum or clearing their throat which can kill productivity.

Nobody uses the phone at work anymore and most conversations can be done during meetings or lunch.

QuiteCleanBandit Tue 13-Feb-18 11:51:39

Its perfectly normal confused
Are you a chatter op ?wink

CrazyDuchess Tue 13-Feb-18 11:52:14

YABU my headphones allows me to crack on with work and focus. Sorry if you think it's rude but I am paid to work first and foremost.

I listen to music on my mobile so I never miss a call and can hear fire alarms. I'd hate to be told I couldn't use my earphones in work... bloody open plan offices

Somewhereovertheroad Tue 13-Feb-18 11:54:05

* I have Asperger Syndrome. I can hear every word of all the different conversations going on. I can hear every keyboard stroke, sniffle, bum shuffle, foot wiggle. It's overwhelming, debilitating, exhausting, anxiety inducing. Add to that the lights are probably strip lights and flickering and then somebody wants me to work as well, noise cancelling headphones are then an absolute necessity.*

^^This ...my Dd has Aspergers and this explains it extremely well.

WillBailey Tue 13-Feb-18 11:55:02

A couple of people were upset as they felt it was making the office a less friendly place

Bellowing "WILL YOU ALL JUST SHUT THE F* UP!" at the top of your lungs attracts similar comments in staff meetings, I've found.

Branleuse Tue 13-Feb-18 11:56:30

If I worked in an office, I actually would not be able to concentrate on anything if people were talking or making a noise. I wear ear defenders when I study. You may not find constant noise and chatter and interruptions a problem, but why would you have a problem with other people trying to concentrate on their work without noise?

namechange012 Tue 13-Feb-18 12:00:53

To those of you saying YABU to OP, do you not get a bit lonely sitting with headphones on all day? It's a genuine question, like I say, I used to do this too occasionally, and I'm not a very sociable person at all, but I would go mad if my job entailed me sitting all day in silence listening to music, completely separated from all that was going on around me.

Totally understand those saying they're useful, or necessary for some disabilities, but I just can't imagine spending all day at work like this, it'd make me feel like a worker drone.

SparkleFizz Tue 13-Feb-18 12:03:01

I think ear plugs are fine in these circumstances. The open plan offices I’ve worked in have all had lots of background noise which can make it difficult to concentrate on work. Ear plugs can really help with that. I never used noise cancelling ear plugs, but I sometimes used to put in iPod ear phones and sit at my desk with the music off if I was busy. Stopped people interrupting me for a social chat when I needed to get on with work. As long as they’re willing to take them out when they’re needed to talk about actual work, it’s not something I see as an issue.

The isolation from human contact thing - well, it may be a bit rubbish for people who want to have friendly chats, but on the other hand, they’re being paid to work, not chat while sitting at their desks. I don’t think it’s fair to complain that a colleague is actually working on work time instead of socialising, is it?

Isn’t there some sort of kitchen / drinks area that people can go to if they want to have a break and a quick chat with someone else?

gamerwidow Tue 13-Feb-18 12:06:29

YABU in my office earphones in is shorthand for I’m concentrating don’t disturb unless absolutely necessary. I work in an area where high levels of concentration and attention to detail is necessary and it just isn’t possible to do the work with people wanting to talk to you all the time. No one has earphones in all the time but when they do it’s respected as them needing quiet time.

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