It’s an age-old question, as old as the ear buds you found under the backseat of your mom’s minivan with the suspicious yellow stain on them. You know, the pair you slipped in your pocket when no one was looking, because God knows those babies break easily and you don’t have $30 to spare.
Let’s be real. On your first day of work, you’re so slammed with trainings and tutorials and emails that you can’t imagine ever being bored. But it comes. Oh, it comes.
It comes sometime during week two, as you’re chugging your third round of data into a system that’s too slow:
“Hey, this would be so much more tolerable to some old school *NSYNC.”
And as soon as the seed is planted, that’s it, there’s no turning back. Every paper you file is to the tune of “Bye, Bye, Bye” and even your most unassuming co-worker looks a lot like Justin Timberlake. It’s an itch you can’t scratch and it’s there, mocking you,
But then, you see them, a rainbow of Beats headphones stretched from one side of the room to the other. And you think to yourself, “There’s no way they’re all listening to client videos.”
*NSYNC, here I come.
You, my friend, have reached the point of no return. Days spent dancing to the Asteroids Galaxy Tour, evenings commiserating with Alanis Morissette, evading the gaze of your boss as you hum the along to the ever-infectious Fratellis. If music motivates you to pry your head off your desk and get some work done, that’s a good thing, right?
Maybe. Until your boss tells you you’re being antisocial.
The above has happened to more than a few friends of mine and, at first, I was just as perplexed as they were. I mean, remember the “rainbow of Beats headphones” metaphor? But, like most things in the workplace, certain situations require stealth because no wants to be known as “Headphone Girl.”
So before you slip into a Spotify coma, keep these things in mind.
- How often do your co-workers indulge? Do certain people slip on ear buds first thing at 9am and leave ‘em in until sundown? Or is consumption more of a “mid-afternoon treat?” If you notice the majority of workers let loose after lunch, follow suit. If they rock out five hours a day, settle for three.
- Are those donning headphones rendered deaf? Are co-workers constantly crying for your attention across the room? If your love of the Violent Femmes gets in the way of productivity, you’d best unplug, or, at the very least, lower the volume. The old one bud in, one bud out trick works wonders, too.
- Do you have a constant stream of clients filing in and out of the office? Most client work occurs behind the scenes, so you bet your ass they’re intrigued to see what goes on within the office and having the latest Nicki Minaj cover art plastered across your screen won’t make the best impression. No, what’s going to get your office a heaping Christmas basket is engaged employees focused on their screens, not the faint reverberation of “Super Bass.” See also: Bosses who manage by walking around. If he sees Spotify open on your screen more than Gmail, you might not be getting any content acknowledgments anytime soon.
- What’s your workload like? If it’s the busy season and the phone is ringing off the hook, your energy is best spent concentrating on a byline or working down your to-do list. If, however, your responsibilities are light and your coworkers have let their hair down, a few rounds of Squeeze won’t hurt anyone.
When new to any office, the best thing you can do is thoroughly study company culture before plunging in. Pay special attention to office norms and the habits of your co-workers and you’ll have a clearer understanding of industry dos and don’ts. And remember, while the Backstreet Boys sound great after a conference call, they sound even better once you hit the road home.