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The Opportunity Cost of Tuning Out

Emily Sackett

Before I started at Prosek, it is rumored a rule was made about no headphones in the office. Headphones are a main-stay in many offices these days, beginning, I am sure as a way to enjoy some light tunes while working but not distracting peers at the same time. In addition to wanting to keep personal music tastes to ourselves, at Prosek, we sit in an open-office environment, and all battle for airspace when sitting on competing conference calls or having mini discussions with our teams in the middle of the floor. So it’s not uncommon to want to tune out what’s going on around you and zone in on that deck you have to finish or the press release which is still only one sentence long. It seems that the “powers that be”, however, had the insight long before this article published in INC Magazine. Is there a cost to allowing employees to keep their ear buds in while sitting at their desks?

According to the article, employees even at large companies surrounded by like-minded peers, are lonelier than ever. The author and the bright minds at Prosek think that tuning out what’s going on around you can lead to lost opportunities to forge valuable relationships in the office or to recognize opportunities for growth and advancement. On top of all that, it makes those times where five conference calls aren’t happening at once, eerily quiet, and for some uncomfortable. The article makes another point that without the day-to-day interaction and engagement of employees, be it work-related or not, innovation and creativity are also in danger.

Apparently, we’re ahead of the curve here at Prosek, as the author notes it’s probably a stretch for business owners to make a no-headphones rule. I’ll be honest, every now and then I will sneak one ear bud into my ear if I really need to jam on something or am under a deadline and there’s a lot of distraction, but for the most part, I truly enjoy the side conversations and one-off questions and banter between my colleagues. In many cases, it’s helped me come up with a new idea, brainstorm a better word to use in a document, or just get some ideas on where to go for dinner that night. What do you think? Are there other ways to keep the office humming and engaged on a regular basis while still encouraging employees take steps to be as productive and focused as possible? End of Story

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