More work, less noise: headphones in the workplace

  • HR Policies Documentation
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Two years ago, Sainsbury’s dismissed an employee for using earphones while he worked in one of their delivery yards. He claimed unfair dismissal. When the case went to a tribunal, Sainsbury’s said their ex-employee didn’t follow their health & safety procedures as he worked around large moving vehicles. But they made a mistake… They hadn’t included their rules around headphones in their company policy. The judge said Sainsbury’s had “jumped the gun” and he advised them to update their company policy with specific mention of earphones. And that’s why you should make your stance on headphones clear for your staff, too. So, is your business pro or anti-headphones?

Headphones at work: a good idea?

Any workplace can be noisy. The sound of heavy typists, loud eaters, or incessant chit-chat can all distract employees. For staff who struggle to focus, the right soundtrack can help them keep on top of their work. And if listening to music makes work more fun for your staff, they’re more likely to enjoy their jobs. In fact, a recent survey suggests that 71% of staff are more productive when they use their headphones at work. But you might not be convinced…

Earphones and your workplace culture

Some employers think that wearing headphones at work is unprofessional. You might agree, especially if staff work with customers or the general public. And even if staff only work with colleagues, you could see headphones as a barrier that stops collaboration and harms your workplace culture. Because if everyone comes to work and keeps their headphones in all day, your colleagues can’t work together effectively. And you can’t build a friendly workplace culture when staff don’t exchange more than a “Hi” and “Bye” all day.

Your workplace

If you want to let your employees use their headphones at work, lay out your dos and don’ts in your own company policy. You could ask staff to:

  •      Keep the volume down because, let’s face it, not everyone likes heavy bass or the same songs.
  •      Use one headphone, so when a colleague is trying to get their attention or if there’s a fire alarm, they know about it.
  •      Enforce a no singing-along rule because it disrupts other staff. Plus, it’s unprofessional.

Time to write a headphone usage policy for your workplace? Call us on 0800 028 2420


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