Off With Their Headphones!

Anne Kreamer worries about the overuse of headphones in the workplace:

Isaac Kohane, co-director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School, has studied if and how scientists benefit from close physical adjacencies at work. Even though scientific research obviously has been enhanced by internet connectedness (the web, after all, began 23 years ago as a vehicle for scientific collaboration), Kohane and his researchers found "striking evidence for the role of physical proximity as a predictor of the impact of collaborations." As Kyungjoon Lee, a research assistant on the study put it, "science is all about communicating your ideas so others can build on them." It seems obvious to me that not just science but most professional pursuits significantly benefit from this kind of perpetual accidental physical-world collaboration. But as my interviews revealed, when we put on our headphones and fire up our messenger client of choice, we effectively make ourselves remote telecommuters even when we are physically present.