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wearing earbuds at work in open offices

Workplaces can be distracting. From loud colleagues to ringing cell phones, noise can be a real issue, especially in open office spaces. Consider the findings below from a study by Oxford Economics:

“The shift to open-plan layouts exposes workers to more noise and distractions than ever before, but most managers fail to understand the detrimental effects on employees. More than half of employees say ambient noise effects their productivity and satisfaction at work, and 40% are distracted enough to take steps to drown out the noise around them.”

For some open-workspace employees, wearing earbuds at work serves the same purpose as closing their (non-existent) door.

Earbud Etiquette in the Workplace

Establishing rules and etiquette with respect to the use of earbuds in the workplace is difficult. Many people find it awkward to interrupt colleagues wearing earbuds when they need to get someone’s attention.

Style for Success suggests the following guideline for navigating the use of earbuds for work:

“If a person is wearing both earbuds, it means that they’re engaged in a task that requires immense concentration and you should avoid interrupting. However, if they’re only wearing one earbud it means you can go ahead and interrupt them.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s also now a need for virtual meeting etiquette. When trying to maintain productivity while working from home, there’s nothing worse than dealing with a noisy environment.

wearing earbuds at work

To manage noise, at home or in the workplace, good quality earbuds are critical. In particular, look for earphones offering active noise cancellation to ensure focus on critical tasks.

Also, earbuds with hear-through functionality give workers more flexibility with their audio environs. By toggling on or off external microphones, they enable conversations and situational awareness – even while listening to digital audio.

noise cancellation to hear through controls

Pros & Cons of Wearing Earbuds at Work

Many feel more productive while wearing earbuds at work that cancel or drown out unwanted noises. These devices are deemed especially helpful for those conducting repetitive tasks.

Reducing distracting sounds around the office is a great asset for employees. Turning on ANC enables greater focus on critical task.

Non-urgent conversations can be had at a later date. Many employees also find listening to music at work to be calming and beneficial.

There are also concerns that come along with wearing earbuds at work. Some of these concerns involve office environments, in additional to the more obvious applications to industrial and manufacturing settings. A recent post on HR Daily Advisor expands on these concerns:

“Under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), you must provide your workforce with a safe workplace. Earbuds may interfere with employees’ ability to hear the fire alarm. If someone just outside an employee’s line of vision chokes, has a seizure, or calls for help, your employee may miss it.”

Best Earbuds for the Workplace

IQbuds2 MAX not only address many of these concerns, but may also improve safety/situational awareness/productivity. Through features such as Tap Touch, ANC and SINC, listeners shape and control the sounds they hear.

The capacity to tap touch and switch between the Active Noise Cancellation and World On is a critical feature. This allows employees to have full concentration on the task in front of them. Then going from outside noise transitioned to full situational awareness, which can occur with a simple tap of the earbud.

IQbuds2 MAX

Using IQbuds2 MAX also enables workers to enhance speech and conversations while muting ambient noise (outside street noise, etc.) that might be distracting.

Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity enables VoIP calls and virtual meetings to be facilitated through the buds. Cancelling out surrounding background noise is not just a courtesy to others on a meeting, but also a way to increase your focus.

The relatively small size of the earbuds compared to bulky headsets is not visually distracting or uncomfortable to wear. Lastly, the quality of sound is excellent, making them the ideal workplace earbuds for both productivity and collaboration.

Wearing Earbuds in the Workplace & Safety

When wearing earbuds at work, especially in an industrial environment, there are potential safety concerns that arise. These include earbuds being worn as hearing protection devices when noise is at levels requiring proper hearing protection and people wearing earbuds playing music on full volume to counteract the noisy environment and causing damage to hearing.

In manufacturing settings, the operation of heavy equipment mandates that employees be aware of their surroundings. Additionally, electrical, chemical, or fire hazards may require that all workers be able to hear audible warning sounds or alerts.

Whilst IQbuds are not certified as a hearing protection device, they do block approximately 20 dB (lower frequencies) and up to 50db (higher frequencies) of attenuation. The noise reduction comes from a combination of the in-ear form factor and best in class ANC technology.

SINC (speech in noise control) allows users to reduce background noise and clarify speech. The SINC feature enables clearer conversations better by turning down ambient noise in a noisy environment.

Similarly, loud sounds such as heavy machinery may be diluted whilst still being able to hear the voice of someone trying to get your attention. Each environmental preset has a default SINC mode, and users may then customize them to best accommodate their hearing.

July 13th, 2021