Ridiculous modern offices fueled AirPods’ success

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AirPods in ear
“Don’t talk to me, I’m wearing AirPods” said just about everyone who’s ever worked in an open office.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Open offices were supposed to get employees to interact with each other more, but a recent study shows it hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, workers have turned to AirPods to give themselves some privacy.

This has helped fuel the rise of wireless hearables, especially Apple’s.

Open offices are counter-productive

In recent decades, walls have frequently disappeared from offices in favor cubicles, which were themselves often taken away, leaving open office plans. The goal is increased collaboration but the opposite is actually happening.

A study on the effects of open offices published by Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society said: “Contrary to common belief, the volume of face-to-face interaction decreased significantly (approx. 70%) in both cases, with an associated increase in electronic interaction. In short, rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.”

AirPods to the rescue

Another way people find to avoid constantly having to interact with their co-workers in wall-less offices is by wearing AirPods.

“People are very good at creating spaces for themselves, and these days you look at everybody and almost without exception they’re on their phones with headphones in their ears,” Ethan Bernstein, a professor at Harvard Business School, told The Atlantic. Bernstein is co-author of the open-office workplace study cited earlier.

Jerrick Haddad summed up the opinion of many people: “We moved from offices to an open plan two years ago, and wireless headphones are why I haven’t quit. One day I forgot them, and I got up and walked straight to the Apple store to buy a pair of AirPods.”

The rise of AirPods

There are plenty of wireless earbuds available, but Apple’s dominate the market. AirPods accounted for a whopping 60 percent of overall wireless hearables sales in Q4 2018, according to market-research company.

But other tech giants have taken note. There are the recently released Samsung Galaxy Buds, for example. And Microsoft could be getting into the game with Surface Buds. Amazon is supposedly throwing its hat into the hearables ring, too.