Steve Ramos is passionate about design and architecture. He is the founder of the BUILDINGS ARE COOL blog, an Architect for LS3P in Charleston, S.C., and is working on his first book, Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect.
“Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.”— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Should architects wear headphones in the office? This is a tricky subject. I suspect I will receive some hate mail about this article.
Wearing headphones while working has become extremely common in the profession of Architecture. This practice is most popular with the younger staff; however, people of all ages and levels are now plugging in and rocking out. I am guilty. I enjoy listening to music at work and sometimes benefit from the focus that headphones allow. My book is for people who want to excel at architecture; therefore, I have one question:
Will wearing headphones benefit your career as an architect?
I believe that headphones do have a place in the architecture office, but you should exercise some discretion. Listening to music may help pass the time, but does it help you perform your job to the highest potential? Will headphones help elevate you at your firm?
Here are some basic rules to keep in mind:
Office Headphones Rules
1. Listening to music while working. Cool.
2. Listening to a podcast, TED Talk, March Madness, movie or audiobook while working. Not Cool.
3. Wearing headphones for a portion of the day. Cool.
4. Wearing headphones for most of the day. Not Cool.
5. Wearing headphones while you are at your desk. Cool.
6. Wearing headphones as you walk around the office. Not Cool.
7. Setting your volume low enough that you can hear people call your name. Cool.
8. Setting the volume to where you can’t hear the person next to you call your name. Not Cool.
9. Bobbing your head back and forth to the beat of the music. Cool.
10. Using your pen to play the drums on your desk. Not Cool.
11. Spontaneous air guitar. Always Cool.
Moderation Is Key
The key thing to remember is moderation. An architect will be responsible for completing their own tasks as well as collaborating with a team. When you put on your headphones, you also hang an invisible sign on your desk that says “not available.” This could be a good thing, as you may be able to better focus and avoid distractions. On the flip side, your unavailability could be a negative. Architecture is a collaborative environment that benefits from teamwork.
Will headphones actually help you focus?
Maybe. An architecture office can be a very distracting environment, especially if it is an open office. In an open office, you will hear your co-workers talking about “The Walking Dead,” you will hear that sick guy sniffling and you will hear the chatter of the keyboards. Putting on the headphones could help you mask those distractions.
There is no conclusive evidence that listening to music will improve someone’s focus. In fact, most studies conclude that listening to music is distracting and that the entire idea of multitasking is a myth. From this, we could hypothesize that it would be best to wear noise-canceling earphones with no music.
When I am doing high-level cognitive thinking such as design or writing, I cannot listen to music. It is distracting. I need all of the focus I can get. I will listen to music when I have simple tasks to do such as redlining drawings, answering emails and basic drafting.
But that’s just me.
Via The Why Not 100
In Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, King reveals that he listens to heavy metal music like Metallica while writing. King is a prolific writer known for cranking out 10,000 words a day, every day. The science may be out on listening to music while working, but if Stephen King can succeed, then that seems like damn good evidence.
I contradicted myself throughout this section because there is no right or wrong answer to the headphone debate. I think it is important to always consider moderation. You have a responsibility to complete your own personal tasks and to be available to help others. Keep that in mind when making the headphone choice.
This post first appeared on Buildings Are Cool. Enjoy this article? Check out more of our Young Architect Guides:
5 Specifying Tips for First-Time Architects
Top image via iStock, courtesy Naphat_Jorjee