While sometimes it’s purely to block out irritating noises or people, or other times just to give us a welcome burst of energy, listening to music at work makes us more productive and helps with concentration and focus; it even makes us happier.
Here are 12 reasons why it pays to listen to music at work…
Does Music Really Make Us More Productive?
It’s proven that music has a variety of health benefits, but can music really make you more productive?
In a study by Lesiuk in 2005, the results found that it wasn’t the music itself but rather the mood elicited by favored songs increased workload (although certain types of music work better for particular tasks). This study also found that even background music can have a positive effect on performance. Music in the major mode (imagine happier keys) played in the background has better results than no music.
Work in a loud office full of open plan banter that a cranked Marshall amp wouldn’t cut through? In 2013 Nick Perham found these environments ‘impair employees ability to recall information’. These types of background sounds can have a negative effect on work.
Jahncke et al studied the effects of workplace conversations being a negative influence on focus. 48% of participants noted intelligible talking as being the sound which distracted them most. This highlights the negative effect lyrics could have. For tasks that don’t require verbal architecture, lyrics can have a positive or calming effect as found by Lesiuk.
Tze and Chou, 2010, found that music with a ‘higher intensity’ is more distracting and had a greater effect on participant’s concentration. They used classical, hip hop music and silence as a control.
So hip-hop, rap and dance music might be a no-no when trying to concentrate. In a study dissected by MetaFilter, 56 employees working on basic computer tasks were found to be more productive when no music was playing compared to another group listening to music.
The Effect of Music on the Brain
A team from Stanford used brain images to show participants listening to music had parts of their brain stimulated that silence could not do. Music moved parts of the brain to help us concentrate and focus on one task at a time; very useful when studying for those exams. University of Illinois researchers found that listening to music in ‘all types of work’ increased work output up to 6.3% over a control group.
Another group of researchers (Ferreri et al, 2013) found that background music helps to activate the encoding of verbal material in participant’s brains. This would be highly useful for anyone listening to music while repeating phrases to remember.
It’s also common knowledge that learning to play a musical instrument helps to keep the brain young – but if you’re coming to it late in life, you might be better off choosing a relatively simple instrument like the Ukulele, as it’s one of the easiest instruments to learn. As Gary Marcus, a psychology professor at NYU found out in his book ‘Guitar Zero’ (which chronicles his journey of a middle-aged guy learning to play the guitar) anyone can become a guitarist, but not everyone can become the best guitarist.
Transcript of Infographic:
1. Instant Mood Lifter
A great piece of music is an instant mood lifter. Plenty of scientific evidence backs this up – we’re happier bunnies when listening to music.
2. Makes Repetitive Tasks More Enjoyable
Oh the drudgery of repetitive tasks! Music shakes a stick at those dull ‘copy-paste’ tasks and makes them even fun!
3. Gets You Into A ‘Flow State’
A flow state is when you lose yourself in the task at hand. Guess what…music, especially the right type of music, helps us get into that state.
4. Speeds Up Your Work
With music oozing through you and all those endorphins firing, you turn into something like the Bradley Cooper character from the movie Limitless (without the magic pills).
5. Reduces Distractions
Distractions are the bane of the workplace. Music puts us on a ‘focus groove’ that makes us hell-bent on getting the job done.
6. Drowns Out Colleagues!
We all love our colleagues (right?!). But like family, even our beloved workmates (and their chit-chat) need to be channeled out when there’s stuff that needs doing.
7. Provides Company In A Quiet Office
Not all workplaces are noisy places. Far from it. A workplace that’s too quiet can be just as big a productivity suck. Music gives you a little oasis of company so you don’t go all lonely (just don’t go singing out loud).
8. Brings Out Your Creative Side
We are not cogs in giant machine, we’re people. And people are inherently creative (they just may not know it). Music is a creativity personified, and listening to it rubs off on you too.
9. Makes You Wanna Move
The ‘office chair slump’ is a symptom of spending too long staring at your screen. With some Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag pumping into your eardrums it would be humanly impossible not to have a little wiggle in your chair.
10. Adds A Virtual ‘Do Not Disturb’ Sign
The office equivalent of the ‘do not disturb’ sign, the headphones on head pose (the bigger the headphones the better) says loud and clear ‘I’m busy doing deep work, don’t pester me’. Throw those pesky earplugs in the bin and get some cans.
11. Makes You More Sociable
Come again, more sociable listening to music? Yup. You may be locked away behind a set of head cans while you’re doing your work, but when you take off those muffs you’re almost brimming with conversation you want to unleash.
12. Stops The Clock Watching
Too much clock watching is a dangerous thing. Music helps you find that flow state and before you know it, you’re immersed in the task and the day is over.
Source (partial list):
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.