MP3 Players & Work

Posted by Derek
Oct 29 2009

I and a coworker today were asked to refrain from bringing our ipods with us in the future. The reasons cited were as follows:

  1. The plane that missed Minneapolis, because the pilots said they were using their personal laptops. Clearly, they (ipods) are also a distraction.
  2. A ‘study’ says productivity increased 20-40% without them on the job.


A lot of the time, I work around loud machinery. Bobcat skidsteer, other medium-duty machines with loud engines, a gas-powered woodsplitting wheel with a mediocre muffler. Splitting wood, especially, is repetitive and generally mindless. I try to wear hearing protection for all of these, and underneath my -30dB protection headphones when I’m splitting I can don my earbuds and listen to NPR podcasts.

There’s the school of thought that says you shouldn’t have the extra mental distraction because it removes your focus from what’s going on around you. I’ll buy that - I don’t have the iPod going when I’m operating the bobcat or the log grapple. I need all my attention on everything going on around me, especially swinging several thousand pounds of wood around in a shot.

That said, how does productivity suffer when you’re doing a mindless, repetitive task? Pick up block, insert below spinning wedge, create two smaller blocks. Repeat for eight hours. Why is it so wrong to have something to keep my head active? I love listening to the Thomas Jefferson Hour podcast while I’m running that thing.

And then there’s the delivery trips. The dump trucks are ancient and don’t have radios. All you get to listen to is the roar of the engine (because there’s also no soundproofing between the engine compartment and the cab). What I listen to may not be live but it’s certainly better than just listening to the engine for half an hour each way (or more - this weekend is a 4+ hour round trip for someone and they get to sit there and listen to the damn thing scream for the duration.)

I personally don’t see how you can draw the comparison for #1. When I’m in the yard working I’m not browsing the internet, checking email, or updating my facebook page - I’m listening to prerecorded NPR shows so that I don’t go batshit loco crazy insane. As to #2… There’s studies on both sides of the fence. You can find anything on the internet to support whatever view you want. If it’s not out there you can make it up yourself on the spot and form a cult around it.

We’ll see how it goes. If the goal here is to reduce distractions on the job, I want the political and religious babble cut down by the rest of the crew. That alone is a massive distraction and clearly they aren’t working while they’re running their mouths.

/rant off.

One Response

  1. grand poobah says:

    couch folds out…

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