When we first started working in our warehouse it was just my partners and I. We had an old boom box (remember those?) that we used to play local radio stations while we were in the warehouse. When we got back to the office someone would throw music on their computer. Sometimes people would use headphones if they wanted to zone in to their work. It kind of just worked and we didn’t think much of it.
Fast forward to last year and our lack of a music policy started to cause problems. Employees didn’t always like each other’s tastes in music. People were distracted by sports talk radio. People weren’t able to communicate because some people had headphones on. It would be difficult to carry on a conversation with multiple audio streams coming from different spots in the building. Somewhat surprisingly (to me anyway), it became a recurring issue.
After quite a bit of discussion, we decided to take the stance that music was a privilege and not a right. No one needs music to work. We’d come up with a set of policies that were more than fair, and if everyone couldn’t abide by them we’d pick the station or revoke the music all together.
The first rule was no talk radio – to focus on what’s being said means you’re not focusing on your work. Maybe worse, talk radio is in the business of starting debates and we didn’t need our employees constantly fighting over controversial topics.
We also agreed that there were to be no headphones worn at all. It’s too easy to miss a knock on the office door or at one of our docks. It’s also too easy to miss a co-worker yelling something important across the warehouse. Headphones also tend to lead to a general lack of conversation and teamwork. And from a safety standpoint, if there is an emergency, the last thing we want is for someone not to be able to react appropriately because their headphones are blocking out their hearing.
Our solution was rather simple: there was to be one single source of audio playing throughout the warehouse and office. We picked up a set of these fantastic wireless speakers (I own a set for home too), connected them to our shipping computer, purchased Spotify and Pandora premium accounts, and said that it was their job to decide who gets to choose the music, but if it became a problem they’d lose the privilege.
Since then we haven’t had any problems. The guys take turns. The miscommunications are gone. They all are great about allowing the part-time employees equal opportunity to pick the music. Even though everyone has different tastes, there hasn’t been any fighting or debates, nor has their been any issues.
It’s fascinating how something as innocuous as music can hurt a culture if the right framework isn’t in place. Thankfully I think we’ve got it now. We’ve even listed our music set up on our careers page as a perk of working here.