Smiling man wearing headphones

Headphones to the Rescue

Have you recently received a coming back to the office survey? Have you been asked about your preferences in terms of how many days you want to be back in the office or maybe the type of office setup you would prefer?

Companies today are looking to gauge the effect of working from home and the impact of decisions being made about coming back to the office.

Office Space Is Not Going Away

Remote work appears here to stay. Many companies are committing to a lot more flexibility in work arrangements. Yet in the end, most companies are not prepared to completely abandon the corporate office space.

The rationale is that they need to have team members physically together for key meetings, project kickoffs, or collaboration sessions where asynchronous communication could hinder effectiveness.

The end result will likely be a hybrid arrangement with many companies having employees return to the office at least for part of the week.

Fundamental Changes Coming to the Office

What may change is the type of office environment employees will find when they return.

Many companies have reduced their office space and are now leaning towards open concept, or no assigned seats, or low cubicles.

This all results in a lot of NOISE. It’s great to be back in the office to see coworkers and collaborate but all that collaboration can result in making it difficult to concentrate. Time for noise canceling headphones!

Quiet Time Needed Even at the Home Office

Noisy environments are not limited to the corporate office. Often there is no shortage of noise at home.

Whether the roommate decided now would be a great time to practice their guitar or school is out and the kids are home - you likely find there are times when you need a little quiet - create some silence in which to concentrate. Time for noise canceling headphones!

Noise Canceling Headphones

Everyone has different preferences - in the ear, on ear, over the ear, active vs. passive noise canceling, etc. but here are some factors as well as some solid choices to consider when making your next headphone purchase.

Active Noise Canceling

Noise-canceling headphones have significantly improved in terms of comfort, battery life, and performance over the years. However, don't expect perfection. They will not block all sounds.

Noise-canceling headphones work by using microphones to capture the sound around you and then plays back the opposite sound into tiny speakers built into the headphones themselves effectively canceling out that sound.

Active noise canceling works best blocking low frequency, humming sounds (think airplane engine or machinery like a loud air conditioner). They are not going to be as effective in blocking higher frequency sounds like people talking.

Passive Noise Canceling

For the people part, the loud roommate or officemate, that is where you need to combine that active noise canceling with passive isolation.

Passive isolation is where you have a physical barrier between your ears and those sounds you want to block.

This barrier is the seal created by the earpad of the over the ear headphones. Alternatively, the in the ear versions create the seal with tight fitting earbuds. These seals do a good job blocking those mid- and high-frequency noises and help to reduce the distraction of those loud conversations happening right next to you.

So in the end you want the best of both worlds: active and passive noise reduction.

Headphone Selection Criteria

There are several factors to consider when finding the noise canceling headphones that will work best for you. There is no right or wrong answer and you will want to weigh which factor means the most to you:

  • Effectiveness of noise canceling
  • Sound quality
  • Touch controls
  • Wired vs. wireless
  • Battery life
  • Overall comfort

Additional factors to keep in mind:

  • Bluetooth support
  • Charging port - USB C vs. micro USB vs. Apple Lightning
  • Battery life (including charging case for earbuds)
  • Quality of built in microphone

Don't forget the most obvious criteria - try them on to see if you actually find them comfortable.

Top Brands

When noise canceling headphones are discussed there are some top brands that get mentioned time and again include Apple, Bose, and Sony.

Each of those brands have entries at various price points. For instance, if you are in the mood to splurge consider these high-end choices. Be warned, they will set you back hundreds of dollars!

Top Headphone Brands - Apple, Bose, Sony

Beyond the big three of Apple, Bose, and Sony there are a number of other brands to consider including:

  • Bang & Olufsen (e.g. Beoplay H95)
  • Beats (e.g. Studio Buds)
  • Jabra (e.g Elite 85h)
  • JBL (e.g.  Reflect Flow Pro)
  • Sennheiser (e.g. Momentum 3 Wireless)
  • Shure (e.g. AONIC 50)

Shopping Tips

If you have flexibility in the timing of your purchase, it pays to wait for a sale. The obvious time of year to buy headphones is in November for the Thanksgiving / Cyber Monday  sales. Here you can save some serious cash since top brands are always offered at significant discounts.

Another key time of year to check out the sale prices is during Amazon’s Prime Day savings. Prime Day usually occurs mid-summer, likely in the mid-July timeframe.

If you can avoid the temptation to have the latest and greatest, you can definitely acquire high-end headphones and stretch your budget at the same time. Consider buying a brand’s previous generation or last year's model. This gets you a lot of features for a lot less money.

Combine the best of both tips and buy yourself last year's top model at Prime Day or Cyber Monday and really save a bundle!

In Summary

It can be a noisy workplace and one way to help reduce the chatter and focus on your work is noise canceling phones. Many styles to choose from over the ear, earbuds, different price points.

The key is to determine the factors most important to you and focus on them. Noise canceling headphones can come at a premium, but when you cut out some of the less important (for you) bells and whistles, you can end up scoring a decent, reasonably priced pair of headphones that will let you block out the noisy work/home environment and focus in peace!

If you have any questions or need additional info, please contact me.

Christine Kines photo

Christine has 15+ years in the technical industry developing software, leading teams along with extensive experience as a hiring manager. She found that she really enjoyed the process of building teams and interacting with candidates and business customers. As a result, Christine decided to make the hiring process her focus and started Vector Recruiting.

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