Why do programmers wear headphones? For the same reason that you can’t juggle.
Andrew Lucker

No. Programmers wear headphones because the vast majority of offices programmers have to work in are f-ing awful. Most developers I know actually prefer to work without headphones, and many of those that are forced to use headphones don’t put on music (another distraction) but white noise or nature sounds.

Headphones are a crutch to avoid dealing with the real issues, and come with two very destructive side effects:

  1. It doesn’t eliminate the distractions of an unsuited workspace, it just dampens it a little. In the long run, the daily attempt to get into the flow in such an environment will still burn many developers out. If you need headphones to work and there is no change in sight, get the fuck out of there before you become the umpteenth burnout case in our profession.
  2. It hampers teamwork. A lot. Any development at scale is teamwork first and foremost, and balancing smooth teamwork with focussed development only happens when people on a team are finely attuned to each other, which comes with a lot of subtle communication. The best way to achieve this is in a colocated team workspace were people don’t need headphones. The second best way is to work remotely and communicate via something Slack. To work in a space where you need headphones to focus is the worst of both worlds, because there is no real commitment to either mode of communication.

If you see and office space where all the developers wear headphones, run for the exit.

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