Music in the Office:
Sutton Full Potential Founder
To Play or Not to Play
Listening to music in the workplace is a personal choice, but a deliberate attempt to introduce it into the working environment tends to raise eyebrows. This response is natural if you aren’t used to cranking up your favourite songs while you work, or if the idea of having a bit of fun with music even when you’re doing high-priority tasks seems radical. But there is considerable research indicating the benefits of playing music in work areas. And the idea isn’t by any means modern – the tradition of work songs dates back to the pre-industrial era.
Benefits of music in the workplace
As indicated earlier, studies on the impact of playing music at work conclude its positive effects on performance. This study found that happy music improved cooperative behaviour and moods, while another discovered that those who listened to music at work performed tasks quicker and produced better ideas than those who don’t listen to music.
A survey of 1,000 workers found that 85% of respondents preferred to work to the sounds of their preferred tunes rather than listening to nothing. Importantly, 71% of respondents believed that listening to music bumped up their productivity.
But there’s a catch
Some types of music can be a hindrance rather than a productivity enhancer at the workplace, specifically affecting reading comprehension and information processing. Research suggests that the beneficial effects of music could be dictated by the nature of tasks and type of music, pointing out five factors: musical structure, lyrics, listening habits, difficulty of tasks and control.
Music can overstimulate the mind, causing information to be ignored rather than absorbed, and also make the mind forgetful. Continuously listening to music at higher decibels can be physically weary and impact hearing over time.
What’s a good compromise?
For those who don’t wish to listen to music while working, noise-cancelling headphones should be promoted as an acceptable response. The physical barrier this may create should be discussed with everyone to drive home the message that coworkers who don’t want to work in the presence of music are neither uncollaborative nor anti-social. Another solution is to create dedicated quiet spaces for people who find it difficult to focus with music playing in the background.
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