Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about  earphones and IPods:


Signed, Ears To Hear

Dear Ears To Hear:

You are indeed fortunate. Robert Byers, an expert in OSHA law and safety consulting, is our guest respondent to your question; he took time from his busy schedule to address your question as follows: It is not illegal for the employees to wear earphones connected to a music source, but I certainly think it presents major OSHA concerns. The OSHA Hearing Conservation Standard states that employees that are exposed to more than 85 decibels over a time weighted period (TWA) would require the employer to establish a baseline audiogram report for each employee and then retest them each subsequent year, and record any standard threshold shift of 10 decibels or more in either ear on the OSHA 300 log.

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Music In A Production Plant

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about music and safety:

Is it safe to listen to music in a production plant while operating different kinds on equipment?

Signed, Music Guy

Dear Music Guy:

I’m sure you don’t want a “it just depends” answer. If you are a manager, you would prefer evidence to say, “Safety comes first. Music can detract.” If you are an operator, you would prefer to hear, “Music can help your concentration and I’ve been able to listen to music while driving my car and different kinds of machines.” Management of a plant doesn’t want to risk an accident caused by someone listening to music while operating any kind of equipment. If you managed a plant neither would you. Therefore, it is safer to err on the side of “It’s not safe.”

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Music In Open Office Landscaping

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about listening to  music:

Which is more appropriate: Listening to music at a volume where it’s annoying to others? Listening to music using headphones or earbuds? Is it unprofessional to use earbuds if the position does not have to interact with customers?

Signed, Ears To Hear

Dear Ears To Hear:

Music while you work can make the day go better, unless that music is annoying and distracting. Apparently, you are annoyed with loud music and think there is a better policy for music within the workplace. There is. As you mention “earbuds” enable employees with jobs that don’t require communication with coworkers and customers to listen to music without disturbing others. This technology enables listening to music while you work to be private. However, there is also something lost when every employee is self-absorbed with music piped into her/him ears and is not interacting with others present.

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Listening To Music While Working

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about listening to music while working :

Does listening to music while working affect focus?

Signed, I Like To Listen

Dear I Like To Listen:

I assume you would like to prove you know the answer to this question. We aren’t music scholars or industrial psychologists, but we have received and answered many questions about music and noise at work. The answer seems to be that “it depends” on the job, type of personal preference as to whether music is a help or distraction. Rather than repeat, if interested, search our archives for answers.

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Gum Chewing Boss

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss who chews and pops her gum:

Help! My boss chews and pops her gum worse than a teenager. If she were my child, I would have had that gum in the trashcan before the second pop! What can I do? The most annoying thing is when she stands behind me chewing and smacking in my ear. It is like fingers on a chalkboard. I have put my iPod on and taken to wearing earplugs, but this is so unprofessional.

Signed, Annoyed!

Dear Annoyed!:

You are annoyed! It is enough to drive you up the wall. Fortunately you’ve found ways to shut the gum popping out of your ears but not out of your mind. What can you do? Continue to fume inside or kindly but firmly tell your boss that it really bothers you, especially when she chews and pops near you. Sure it is the kind of thing you would have stopped if she were your child, but she isn’t rather she is your boss.

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MP3 Distractions

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about personal MP3 players:

Is the use of personal MP3 players a detrimental distraction in the workplace? Specifically speaking in an aerospace component overhaul facility? I need to prove or disprove this for the employees that work there and use these devices.

Signed, Music Critic

Dear Music Critic:

Check our Archives. We have many questions from individuals who wish to make the same kind of argument as you. For example: Two Q&As you might review are: Radios–Turn Them Off http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=1256 And a more recent Q&A Loud, Loud Music http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=3679 that includes this bit of information: The Federal government says levels over 85 dB are dangerous. A vacuum cleaner runs about 70 dB, a jackhammer at 100 dB, and sandblasting about 110 dB.

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Loud, Loud Music

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about loud music:

I work in a restaurant where loud music is played by the chefs. Is this allowable? I don’t feel it is, and I mean loud music to a volume I don’t need…I’m 50.

Signed, Crying Out Loud

Dear Crying Out Loud:

You are not alone. Loud music is akin to standing near a jet taking off. Your question is a legal one and our site only answers questions pertaining to workplace communication. But there is information accessible to answer your question:

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Computer Buzz

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about distracting noise:

I work in a very small office space where the computers are hooked up and there is a constant humming, buzzing, noise that is very distracting and now I am noticing I have ringing in my ears all the time. The boss says he’ll fix it, but it hasn’t happened

Signed, Buzzing

Dear Buzzing:

We focus on workplace communication rather than occupational health and safety issues. However, since this involves a communication breakdown as well as a noise situation, let me share some thoughts and see if they’re helpful to you. I don’t know what size computers you are talking about but they must be quite large to create that much noise! You mention that the boss says he’ll fix the noise but it hasn’t happened.

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Workplace Morale Needs Music

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about music taken away:

I work in a mechanic shop and have recently had all music, including radio, ipods, phones and even the radios in the trucks were working on, taken away or banned. I’m trying to find out if there is good research on how listening to music will increase productivity and shop morale in an attempt to have our music reinstated. Thank you!

Signed, No Music While I Work

Dear No Music While I Work:

Yours is a frequent question. Apparently, management in your shop has been frustrated with the way music distracts and disturbs. Music can do that when it is too loud, a disliked style, seems to have caused difficulty in communication, and/or caused mistakes or delay. Probably there is no sure way for you to persuade your boss or management above him/her to change this ruling. Research might help, but each situation depends on your crew’s current relationship with management. The key to making a case for getting music while you work undoubtedly hinges on improving how you and your superiors communicate and can re-establish respect for each others concerns.For example, when deciding if and what music might be allowed and conducive to a good work environment, do you take into account: § how large is the space? § how many mechanics and other employees work within your work area? § do customers visit the location? § what types of regulations apply to the facility and to the work it does?§ might your company be sued should someone be injured and the music be partially to blame?That is to suggest that if you want the best not just for yourself but for the all who are involved, you will back off arguing that music improves productivity. Rather you will think what I call WEGO.By that I mean you will be interdependent-minded, as my signature sentence suggests: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that includes ears. With these thoughts as background, common sense and research tells us that employees like music while they work and that while improving morale, it can improve productivity.An Internet search turns up many sites addressing this question, and excerpts from several of them follow. These sources should provide more about music at work than you and your managers would ever want to know:***Listening to Music While Working Improves Job Satisfaction and Productivity http://www.hrtools.com/benefits_and_compensation/articles/listening_to_music_while_working_improves_job_satisfaction_and_productivity.aspx According to a recent Spherion Workplace Snapshot survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, almost one-third (32 percent) of workers listen to music while working using an iPod, MP3 player or similar personal music device. Of those, 79 percent feel that doing so improves their job satisfaction and/or productivity.The survey also found that 10 percent of adults who use personal music devices while working spend more than 50 percent of their time tuned in. The percentage of workers who feel that listening to a personal music device improves their job satisfaction and/or productivity is highest among younger adults, with 90 percent of workers aged 18 to 24 and 89 percent of those aged 30 to 39 making this claim.In addition, of adult workers who listen to a personal music device while working, 55 percent feel it improves both job satisfaction and productivity. “Like many other new technologies that have seeped into the workplace, such as cell phones, Blackberries and instant messaging, personal music devices do have the potential to negatively impact performance and security in the workplace. This may be especially true in certain higher-risk jobs where the ability to hear clearly is paramount,” says Halverson. “Yet our survey has uncovered a compelling argument that allowing workers to listen to music while they work could pay dividends in the form of higher job satisfaction and productivity.” The key, according to Halverson, is for employers to set ground rules for workers to avoid distractions or communication breakdowns. This can include asking workers to keep low volume levels, identifying designated areas where listening is acceptable and implementing policies governing the downloading of music and other files using company computers.Without guidelines, employers could see an increase in safety risks due to employees missing fire alarms or alerts from colleagues, and diminished customer service because employees don’t hear the phone or coworkers have difficulty getting their attention. Reprinted with permission. © CCH ***Music & Relaxation in the Workplace By Dennis Coleman, eHow Contributor updated: April 15, 2010 http://www.ehow.com/facts_6302993_music-relaxation-workplace.html Many people listen to music in their place of work, either through their own personal iPods or on their computer. Is that music a distraction and hindrance or does it help ease stress? Music soothes. Studies show that music in the workplace actually relaxes workers.University of Illinois researchers found in a study of 256 office workers that listening to music of their own choice soothed frayed nerves, drowned out office distractions and enhanced office performance.Productivity. Music notes image by Pavel Losevsky from Music boosts productivity. The same study says music boosts productivity in the workplace. A separate study says that quality of work was actually lowest with no music. And in 1993, researchers at the University of California in Irvine found that college students who listened to Mozart’s Piano Sonata K.448 for 10 minutes prior to taking a spatial IQ test scored eight points higher than those who did not.Read more: Music & Relaxation in the Workplace | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_6302993_music-relaxation-workplace.html#ixzz1BZMGB85i *** Solving Business Problems: Sales Creators. Creating a Better Work Environment http://www.salescreators.com/Section4/betterWkPlace.html If your goal is to increase your concentration then music which has a constant, easy beat and light melodies are recommended. These are said to be good for those trying to study as they help you pace your reading to aid focus and memorising. Baroque music is reported as an excellent example, especially the works of Vivaldi, Bach and Handel.Rock music can have a similar effect. According to a report in the journal Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology, the Russian A cademy of Sciences discovered that a person’s ability to recognize visual images, including letters and numbers, is faster when either rock or classical music is playing in the background.If you are aiming to be more productive through being more relaxed, then you may be interested to learn that research has shown that music with an upbeat rhythm can reduce stress hormone levels by as much as 41%.***Ezine Articles Music in the Workplace By Nikola Marshall A Brief History http://ezinearticles.com/?Music-in-the-Workplace&id=564815 Music is a universal language that transcends boundaries. In Victorian times, handloom weavers sang as they worked. When the loud machinery of the Industrial Age came along, music in the workplace was nearly lost. During World War II, music was once again introduced to employees via radio.Employees, often children, would lose fingers to the looms while attempting to remove something that was blocking it. Child laborers would sing to keep themselves awake. Railroad workers and farmers sang to relieve monotony and to stay alert to dangers. With the advent of machines in the Industrial Age, singing was literally drowned out. In quieter factories, women or orchestras were hired to sing and play among the workers. Music all but died during this time. (le Roux, 2005, vol. 7) Radio was mainly used as a means to convey news, but in 1940, the British Broadcasting Corporation began running a radio program called “Music While You Work.” It ran twice per day and was geared especially for the factory workers. The bands for the show were instructed to play medleys in order to keep the workers’ attention. Also vital was for the music to keep a rhythm that would keep productivity up. In 1942, the song “Deep in Heart of Texas” was banned due to the handclapping section that encouraged workers to momentarily stop and participate. (le Roux, 2005) Even in these earliest of times, the benefits of music in the workplace were recognized: –Increased productivity –Fewer accidents –Improved alertness –Team interaction In response to the positive reaction, the company Muzak was founded in the 1950’s to provide music to companies. The company is still going strong today. ***Kutcha making problems go away http://www.kutchka.com/products/musicincreasesproductivity.htm Whilst there may be many reasons for wishing to listen to music in the workplace, can it really improve your productivity?We know that music can alter your mood. Films have been using musical scores for years to create the right mood for a scene. At times you hardly notice the music at all but you are very receptive to the mood being conveyed. So can we use music to put us in a “productive” mood? Research seems to support such a claim.For example, a trial where 75 out of 256 workers at a large retail company were issued with personal stereos to wear at work for four weeks showed a 10% increase in productivity for the headphone wearers. Other similar research conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois found a 6.3% increase when compared with the no music control group. If your goal is to increase your concentration then music which has a constant, easy beat and light melodies are recommended. These are said to be good for those trying to study as they help you pace your reading to aid focus and memorising. Baroque music is reported as an excellent example, especially the works of Vivaldi, Bach and Handel.Rock music can have a similar effect. According to a report in the journal Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology, the Russian A cademy of Sciences discovered that a person’s ability to recognize visual images, including letters and numbers, is faster when either rock or classical music is playing in the background.If you are aiming to be more productive through being more relaxed, then you may be interested to learn that research has shown that music with an upbeat rhythm can reduce stress hormone levels by as much as 41%.The Mozart effect Some of the most publicised studies into whether listening to music increases productivity have centred on what has been termed the “Mozart effect”. The term got its name after a study showed that college students had performed better solving mathematical problems when listening to classical music. The effect of listening to Mozart does not appear to be limited to humans either. Apparently cows will produce more milk if Mozart is played. ***Radio in the Workplace: Increasing Morale & Productivity http://www.musicworksforyou.com/workplace-productivity/radio-in-the-workplace-increasing-morale-a-productivity.html What relevance does music have for employers? Certainly at the basic level of demand there is a strong case to be discussed.Recent research published on Music Works revealed that 71% of people in full-time employment want to be able to listen to music at work. That’s all very well but what value does background music offer an employer in terms of return on investment?In 1998 Professors North and Hargeaves observed in their study ‘Employee’s Responses to Music in the Workplace’, that playing music that was liked by factory employees resulted in them returning a mood rating that was 20% higher than in a ‘no music’ state and 13% higher than in a ‘neutral music’ state.The Music Works research conducted in 2009 reported a similar set of conclusions regarding the workplace productivity and found that 74% of workers said they enjoy going to work more when music they like is played. Furthermore, 85% of workers said that listening to music at work makes them much happier. The positive findings from these research studies are however predicated on the assumption that the music is broadly liked by the employees. It is also important in this regard that the music is highly familiar. ‘Music for Business’, a study conducted by Entertainment Media Research in February 2008, found a strong correlation between familiarity and the impact of background music in the workplace. In the study 1,500 respondents (weighted to be representative of UK demographics) were played 55 songs of varying familiarity. They were then presented with a list of attributes and behaviours relating to the effectiveness of music in the workplace. The findings (summarised below) firmly indicate that effectiveness is influenced by song familiarity. Employees have a greater love for familiar music, it makes them feel happier, creates a better atmosphere and, crucially, it encourages workplace productivity.So how best to ensure that the music fits the workforce and generates the desired behaviour? One option is to consider radio. The immediate advantage of radio is that the majority of songs will normally be familiar; radio programmers know that unfamiliar songs can cause up to 30% of their audience to “tune out”. They therefore extensively research every song under consideration to ensure the song is liked by their target audience and is sufficiently familiar before adding it to the playlist.

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Annoying Noise

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about noisy coworker:

I work in a small closed area office and there is constant loud talking, walking in heels hitting on uncarpeted floors and other annoying noises. It won’t do any good to talk to the Supervisor about this matter because the employee is one of the pets. What can I do when this is distracting me from my work and causing stress?

Signed, Annoyed

Dear Annoyed:

You have ruled out the source for stopping distractions, your supervisor. Why? Because you say she/he is “one of the pets”. Pet or not a pet, it is a supervisor’s responsibility to make every reasonable effort to develop and maintain a work environment free from distraction and conducive to production. Offices don’t have the hush-hush of a library or hospital, and incidentally deathly quiet is no longer mandated in either of those places. But you can make the case for toning down the noise level.

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