Concerns for future hearing health aside, how often are the earbuds even in use? Do people put in earbuds or wear headphones just to avoid contact or conversation? What is the proper etiquette for wearing headphones in the workplace and talking to people wearing them?

Is it Beneficial to Wear Headphones or Earbuds at Work?

One may consider wearing headphones in the workplace to be beneficial. Putting on headphones keeps the outside world at bay so the wearer can concentrate. Next, people will be wearing blinders, like horses. But what of missed information and conversation? Should coworkers be responsible for filling in the headphone hermit because they were anti-social?

How Do You Approach the Conversational Nomad?

Is it rude to interrupt someone wearing headphones? Should you wave your hands wildly like someone is on fire to get their attention? If a person chooses to block out the world to facilitate maintaining their concentration, then a choice has been made. Maybe they should start a recording on their phone. Then they can hear anything anyone says in the office within range. That won’t be creepy at all.

What Gets Missed Wearing Headphones at Work

There is an issue of partial conversations heard as well. A person wearing headphones may not hear an entire conversation, but they do hear their name. Let’s work on a mock scenario. We will call the headphone wearer ‘Jeff’, for lack of another name.

During a conversation, a topic arises:
     Person 1: I have a question.
     Person 2: I am not sure of the answer, perhaps you should ask ‘Jeff’.
     Person 1: Is this something I should be doing myself?
     Person 2: ‘Jeff’ may prefer you do it another way.
The issue is concluded and the conversation moves on.

Later, ‘Jeff’ removes his headphones and asks ‘What? Did someone say my name?’ Is he justified in his frustration when nobody repeats a long-since-finished conversation? Someone did say ‘Jeff’s’ name, but it was nothing directly involving them. Had they not been wearing headphones, perhaps they could have joined in. Is it rude not to tell them the conversation they missed?

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When not required as part of the job, is wearing headphones in poor taste? If someone chooses to wear headphones, do people have to fill in what coworkers missed? What if nobody took good enough notes?

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