Have an intergenerational issue in your firm? Accounting Tomorrow is teaming up with Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation Consulting to answer your questions. Today’s topic is iPods at work – Are they acceptable or not?

Dear Rebecca: My managing shareholder is concerned about the number of staff using ipods while they are working.  He asked if there is any research that shows that they are less focused and effective by using the ipods while they are working.  I shared with him that most of the staff has been watching tv, listening to music, etc while doing other things for most of their life.  If we’re having a performance issue, we can address that as a potential distraction, but for most, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Do you have any other thoughts that might help? - Tricia

Dear Tricia: Your feedback to your managing shareholder about the iPods is spot on. Unless there's a performance issue, the iPods shouldn't be an issue.

Your managing shareholder has probably seen some of the brain research that shows that when people try to do multiple things at once, e.g. cook dinner and write a memo, they're less effective at both. However, listening to music on an iPod is not multitasking; it’s background music, the same kind that doctors and dentists have in their lobbies and patient rooms.

Your firm could use this phenomenon to its advantage. What if different departments or generations created their own playlists, and distributed them? Your managing shareholder could start by doing “The Soundtrack of My Life” and providing some liner notes. Bonus points if you can get the team to listen to Mozart or classical music; research shows it increases creativity and performance!

Have an intergenerational issue in your firm? Ask Rebecca! E-mail her at: rr@nextgenerationconsulting.com. If your question is chosen, you'll receive a free copy of her book, Live First, Work Second: Getting Inside the Mind of the Next Generation." We’ll post the answers right here on www.accountingtomorrow.com.