“When I talked to Phyllis, I mentioned that a good pair of noise-canceling headphones had proven essential to my son for shutting-out his loud college roommate last year. In addition, it reminded me of 1995 study (here is the reference and abstract) by Greg Oldham and his colleagues, an experiment conducted in an organization, where they gave a random sample of employees the opportunity to listen to headphones while they worked (people who held diverse jobs in retail organization) and then tracked their reactions for four weeks, and compared them to people in a control condition who weren’t offered the chance to use headphones. They found employees who used headphones “exhibited significant improvements in performance, turnover intentions, organization satisfaction, mood states, and other responses.” They also found that people in the most boring and simple jobs had the most positive reactions to wearing the headphones… so there is some decent, if not definitive, evidence to support the use of headphones.”

Bob Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule, makes a good case for using headphones at work: people who use headphones to tune out workplace noise are actually more productive. Also read I Find You Annoying, but I Can Cope.

Image by Chris Reed for NY Times.