I am lucky that I work for a manager and company that does understand that an office is a noisy place and sometimes you need a way of shutting off from the cacophony of your colleagues. The usual way for me to do this is by using my phone to listen to music. This is so important that I will only have phones I can stick a huge memory card in to put as many melodies on as I can.
The alternative would be to stream, but data limits restrict the ability to use Spotify and I sit just out of range of a free wi-fi. Thankfully this month I have saved my allowance so I can listen to live coverage of the Ashes, but this raises an ethical question. Does the listening of a live sports event damage or improve productivity and therefore should I be allowed to listen to Test Match Special?
The obvious answer is of course yes, I’m not going to pretend that this will be an unbiased assessment of my listening habits. It is one of the God-given rights for an Englishman to listen to TMS, if it had been around in the 1770s then hundreds of radio sets tuned to 198LW would have been thrown into Boston harbour (however this would have galvanised the Redcoats even more than the wanton destruction of tea).
For the uninitiated TMS is the ball-by-ball broadcast of all the day’s action in the cricket, it’s been on air for over fifty years and is a summer institution. It is a throwback to older broadcast days, no need to shout or throw in hyperbole. In between overs there is analysis, but also discussions about cakes, the buses passing the ground or a particularly eccentric pigeon that may be flying around.
Don’t think that this is because the sport it is covering is dull and therefore they are filling air time, it’s because they are following one of the old rules of broadcasting. They are being conversational, it is as though Aggers, Blowers and Tuffers and you are in your local watching the game and just having a chat. Just one that you are the least qualified to talk about so you sit there just listening.
Which causes a problem, surely you need to sit there listening for six hours at work? How can this be productive?
Like any conversation you are on the periphery of you tend to not really give it all your attention. You follow the cadences of conversation but in reality you aren’t paying attention and letting your mind wander elsewhere. You can tell when something important is happening because of the change of tone and hopefully have enough of a snippet of talk to work out what’s happening. With cricket this might happen once or twice an hour, so effectively gives you a good 55 minutes of being able to concentrate on work.
The alternative to trying to follow the game is either furtive glances at the Internet or to not follow it at all. Pressing F5 constantly to update an online commentary is a well known productivity killer. During the 2009 Ashes series it was responsible for plunging the country back into recession and is estimated to have cost industry £8.9 billion.