Adams and Reese attorney Hogan Crosby, a member of the firm’s Labor and Employment Team, was interviewed in a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article, “Should Earbuds Be Allowed in the Workplace?”
“As younger generations enter the workforce, it is important for employers to recognize that personal technology device use in the workplace is only going to grow more common,” Crosby said. “As such, it is important that employers get ahead of the curve when developing policies on the use of technology like earbuds and headphones in their workplace.”
These policies may vary by industry and corporate workspace environment.
For example, in retail, if an employee is stocking shelves in a grocery store and has headphones in, they may not hear an employee or customer coming behind them or around a corner and could potentially cause injury by failing to notice that person.
In customer-facing roles and workplace environments, the ability for an employee to be fully aware of their surroundings and respond quickly to customer questions is a priority, Crosby said. “There often are perceptions from store customers, or even co-employees, that a person with headphones in seems more unapproachable than someone who does not."
“Employees who work in office jobs pose little safety risk to themselves or others by using headphones. … focus-improving music in earbuds can improve an employee's productivity by minimizing outside distractions.” Crosby added: “There is a give and take … while the use of music might boost creativity for one employee or help them focus, it might distract a co-worker unless headphones are used. In this sense, headphones can actually provide a solution to both problems.”
An employer can survey employees about how they think earbuds would impact productivity and safety in the workplace, Crosby added. “By getting employee input, this can help an employer ensure that their policy is crafted to the practical realities of the employees and also help employees feel as though they are a part of the decision-making process,” he said.
Practicing in the Adams and Reese New Orleans office, Crosby practices in litigation, labor and employment, and general insurance defense.