Not long ago the background hum of a typical workplace was the clacking of typewriter keys and ringing phones, or the thump and roar of heavy machinery. That is not what many workers hear today.

According to the "Workplace Snapshot" survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the staffing firm Spherion, almost a third (32%) of adult US workers listen to music at work on an MP3 player or similar personal music device. The survey also found that 10% of these listeners spend more than 50% of their time tuned in.

Not surprisingly, nearly half (48%) of adults ages 25 to 29 say they listen to music while working, more than in any other age group. Higher-income workers are also more likely to listen to personal music devices while at work.

Luckily, for their managers and employers, 79% of working listeners say that music improves their job satisfaction and/or productivity. In fact, 55% feel that listening to music improves both job satisfaction and productivity.

However, there could also be a downside.

"Recent research indicates that more than 40 million people worldwide own iPods, so it’s not surprising to find that nearly one-third of adults listen to these or similar devices while they work," said Nancy Halverson of Spherion. "But like many other new technologies that have seeped into the workplace, such as cell phones, Blackberries and instant messaging, personal music devices do have the potential to negatively impact performance and security in the workplace. This may be especially true in certain higher-risk jobs where the ability to hear clearly is paramount."

Spherion suggests that employers set ground rules for workers to avoid distractions or communication breakdowns. These can include keeping volume levels low, identifying designated listening areas and implementing policies governing the downloading of music and other files when using company computers.

More here.