Should You Wear Headphones at Work?

Last Updated Aug 1, 2007 6:14 PM EDT

headphonework.JPGWorking in an office with other folks around can be an annoying experience. If you've truly got work to do, the less distractions the better, right? So is there anything wrong with aiming to cut off ambient sounds and unwanted interruptions by hanging a "do not disturb" sign around your ears in the form of noise-canceling headphones?

Here's the deal: headphones are great. You can totally focus on the task at hand without having to worry about ringing phones, pinging inboxes, and background chatter. No one will come up to you to chat or barge into your space to talk about a work-related problem that could be solved much faster over email.

But this solitude comes at a price. You'll be considered a little bit rude and weird. It's even possible that your stab at increased productivity could be perceived by others as an attempt to slack off. (After all, to the outside observer, you could just as easily appear to be listening to your favorite music, podcast, etc.)

So I save the headphones for immediate deadlines, and either go aurally naked or with the more surreptitious earplugs for others. What do you think? Is it rude to wear headphones in the office? Or are they another gadget to keep in the productivity arsenal? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments.