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November 25, 2021

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Should listening to music at work be punished?

TEN employees at GOME, a Chinese electric appliance retailer, hit the headlines recently for being punished for listening to music at work.

When the corporate notice for the punishment in August was posted online recently, it went viral, triggering a debate on whether employees can listen to music at work.

Many executives may defend GOME for punishing erring employees, but at least one chief executive dared to think differently — Tesla’s Elon Musk.

“I very much support music in the factory, as well as any little touches that make work more enjoyable,” Musk said in an e-mail dated October 3 to his employees, but posted online recently. “Also, ambient music from speakers is also totally cool so long as there is reasonable agreement among your colleagues as to the music choices,” Musk said in his note.

The contrast was made even sharper when nine of those GOME employees received an administrative punishment, and one outsourced employee was sacked for doing things “unrelated” to work, such as listening to music and watching videos.

The decision by GOME led to a wave of discussions, most of which were against such strict management.

“We often have to continue working till the end of the day because some superiors demand it. Even if you have finished your task sometimes, you need to stay longer to make the overtime longer,” a worker from the architecture industry said.

Some employees from the Internet industry complained that their bosses had even installed toilet timers.

“Work-time recreations like listening to music is a way to combat invalid overtime,” an online comment said that got a lot of likes.

GOME’s boss Huang Guangyu, has just returned after spending 10 years in prison for illegal trading. He has pledged to restore the company’s glory within 18 months.

GOME responded to the online discussion last week, saying “what those employees did during work hours far exceeded proper recreation and did violate the employee code of conduct. Meanwhile, GOME will investigate the leakage of internal notifications.”


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