Does Listening To Music in the Workplace Help You Work Better?

Should you be able to rock out at your desk? It’s an age-old question that science has been trying to answer for a long time. On the one hand, some bosses say listening to Motorhead at full volume for eight hours daily is distracting. But on the other hand, many workers believe that listening to music helps them to concentrate. So who is right? Does listening to music in the workplace help you work better?

Woman with headphones listening to music while working.
Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash

Music While Your Work Throughout History

While listening to music via a personal device seems like a new thing, it’s been going on for a long time. The UK government, for instance, encouraged nineteenth and early twentieth-century factories to play upbeat music to get workers excited about the job. Legions of people needed to carry out mundane tasks, such as pushing buttons, for the betterment of the British Empire. Fast-paced music increased the rate at which people worked, allowing the country to produce more goods and munitions for the various war efforts worldwide. 

Incredibly, the idea worked. Studies showed that listening to good music increased output by around 12 to 15 per cent, which wasn’t bad for something so cost-effective. 

Today Listening To Music At Work Is Much More Common

Returning to the present, listening to music at work is more popular than ever. Around half of the workers listen to music on the job, according to the latest available data. And many of them believe that it helps them to get more done. 

In many offices, headphones have become standard accessories, and managers sometimes dole them out as part of their worker welcome packages. 

The trend is so pervasive that many organisations are now blasting music over the airwaves. They are often keen to discover Rega research from Signals Hi Fi to find the best equipment.

Does Listening To Music Improve Productivity?

As with most productivity-enhancing interventions, the science is not entirely straightforward. There are right and wrong ways of using music to boost productivity. 

Music, for instance, needs to be sensitive to context and how people feel. Office fit-out companies are now offering offices bespoke playlists to help with staff motivation. 

These firms are careful to make music for the right demographics. They also structure playlists to change daily to reflect standard mood cycles. 

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Woman in White Dress Shirt Using White Laptop Computer
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

They say companies should play calmer, more relaxing music if people concentrate, and sound energy shouldn’t distract the mind from the task.

However, companies that do more creative work may find it beneficial to play more upbeat tracks. Despite being somewhat distracted, originality and flair may increase. 

What about the so-called “Mozart effect?” Well, it turns out that there is some evidence for that. Listening to music at work may have the effect of making us feel more competent and more intelligent at the same time. It might also be what some people need to keep plodding on, even if they have had enough and want to go home.

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