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Take Off Your Headphones: Agency Offices Go Eerily Quiet
By: Digiday
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The strangest thing about walking into an agency these days is that you can hear a pin drop.

The confluence of open-floor plans, rampant headphone use, and a generation of phone-averse millennials has created a workplace where silence, not noise, is the new normal. Ironically, the library-like environments can be traced, in no small part, to agencies latching onto trendy ideas around collaboration.

Open office plans, popularized in Silicon Valley, were adopted en masse by ad agencies through the 2000s. But people sitting next to each other without office walls don’t necessarily collaborate more. In fact, they often collaborate less, as they re-create private space with headphones.

“It’s a funny thing,” said Michael Epstein, chief client officer at Carat USA. “With an open floor plan, you’d think it would be wildly disruptive with people constantly talking to each other. More often, you see them with headphones on.”

Rich Silverstein, co-chairman at Goodby Silverstein and Partners, said that he thinks headphones were invented by money-crunching CFOs to make people believe they have their own office. “Headphones are the greatest invention for office space ever,” he said.

Not all of this is bad, of course. Agencies have long rewarded fast talkers; headphones are the new way of burrowing more deeply into work. You could argue it’s the mark of a doer.

“Headphones are a way of announcing to the world, ‘Don’t talk to me, I’m actually working’,” said Dave Snyder, executive creative director at Firstborn.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. Some at agencies say headphones are a convenient way to cut themselves off, which often becomes an all-day habit rather than an as-needed mode. (As Digiday alum John McDermott wrote in MEL last week, there are many negative effects on efficiency and creativity in the workplace because of headphones.)

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This article was published on Digiday.com.  A full link to the original piece is after the story. www.digiday.com
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