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Wed, Nov 01, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Britain debates the propriety of using MP3s at work

AFP , LONDON

Nearly a quarter of British workers plug in their MP3 players to listen to music while on the job -- sparking lively debate over whether they should be banned, a study said on Monday.

Over 30 percent of companies have outlawed using devices like the ubiquitous iPod in the workplace, according to Woods Bagot, an international design firm.

"By wearing the highly visible, white headphones, they're ... sending a signal to colleagues that they don't want to be bothered," said Simon Pole, the company's head of corporate interiors.

According to the study, 22 percent of workers spend an average of three hours per day listening to MP3 players.

But some argue that the trend is only natural: previously workers were physically sepa-ated by walls, whereas offices are increasingly open-plan nowadays, pushing them to erect new barriers.

Cary Cooper, professor of organization psychology and health at Lancaster University, and author of Shut up and Listen: The Truth About How to Communicate at Work, said bans were counter-productive.

"Employers are wrong to ban MP3 players from the workplace. It's crucial to give workers autonomy, and bans of any sort can alienate workers," Cooper said.

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