Feeling Isolated? Break Out of the Office Bubble

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Posted by The Editors on October 7, 2011
Feeling Isolated? Break Out of the Office Bubble

More than a few times, a co-worker has popped into the WetFeet editors' room only to find all of us with our headphones in, glued to our respective computer screens. We’re all doing our work—not just surfing Spotify playlists—so it’s all good, right?

Whether music increases our productivity or we have to be on guard for a Skype chat at a moment’s notice, headphones are an indispensible office accessory. But I’ll admit that sometimes I have my headphones on with no audio coming through them. At that point, they’re just fancy earplugs, shutting out nearly every sound in the office. It’s great for concentration, but I do worry that it might dissuade colleagues from approaching me with questions, problems, or just friendly chit-chat.

I once read a review that described an orchestra that lacked coordination and unity in performance as 100 musicians playing in 100 phone booths. Just this morning, I saw a reference to the players on a baseball team similarly lacking cooperative spirit. Their approach was deemed “25 players, 25 cabs”; each of them was so isolated from the rest that they wouldn’t even share a taxi to the ballpark.

The headphones-in, eyes-on-the-screen approach sometimes threatens to put us all in our little bubbles. So even if your co-workers seem walled in from each other, you don’t have to put up your own wall. Observe how others approach them and use that to judge what’s worth pulling someone away from their work and what isn’t.

With that knowledge, take time to unplug those headphones and to engage, especially if someone from outside your office or your department comes by. If nothing else, your ears could use a break.

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