This is what people really think when you wear headphones at work

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Everyone wears headphones for a reason. For some, they genuinely enjoy listening to music or podcasts, where they can escape between soft cushions in their own, little world. For others, headphones are as powerful as word, meaning plastic earbuds or over-the-head headphones are a way of saying, ‘Leave me alone. I don’t want to be disturbed.’

At the office, that sentiment stands true as it does for most situations, according to a new study.

Audio Visual equipment website AVSForum.com recently surveyed more than 800 people about their receptions of others who wear headphones and their own personal use of headphones in the office. Researchers found that more than a quarter of respondents said when co-workers wear headphones at work, it means they want to be left alone. It could also mean that co-workers want to stay focused or just love music, according to the survey.

In general, 69% of respondents said seeing someone with headphones on means they want to be in their own space. That perception changes when someone is at the gym working out, as 48% felt that people who branded headphones do so to remain focused while exercising.

As for perceptions, the type of headphone you wear can either make you look more pretentious or busier. Wearing wireless in-ear headphones like AirPods were considered three times more pretentious compared to wearing regular in-ear headphones. But researchers found wearing wireless headphones made someone look three times busier than someone wearing over-ear headphones like Beats by Dre or other models like Bose.

Wearing headphones at work also serves for another purpose — eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. More than one in three people admitted to listening to other co-worker’s conversations while wearing headphones at work in order for them to appear like they weren’t paying attention.

Manufacturing was the industry with the most headphone use, followed by public administration, finance and insurance, and professional, scientific, and technical services.