Is Music in the Workplace a Good Thing? - 25 July 2018

Is Music in the Workplace a Good Thing?

Playing music in the workplace is an issue that divides opinion and one that business owners battle with on a regular basis.

Although there is evidence to suggest that listening to music while at work can boost productivity and help create a happier workplace, some businesses feel that it is not right for them.

A study commissioned by Musicworks found that 88% of people work more accurately when listening to music. Another study found that listening to music boosts productivity in 79% of people. The same study also found that 38% were prevented from listening to music by their employer.

If your employees are in the 38% not allowed to listen to music while they work, it is worth considering the benefits that music can bring to your office. Listening to music could be the key to unlocking the full potential of your workplace. But don't take our word for it, let's take a look at some stats and facts.

What do other businesses think?

It's easy to see why business owners might ban music from an office. Arguments over which radio station is played, or staff with headphones is ignoring the world, don't exactly scream 'productivity'! However, many businesses paint a different picture.

65% of business owners believe that music makes their staff more productive and 77% believe that music increases staff morale. Music, it is suggested, has a much wider impact than just productivity. It can make employees happier and more positive, a concept which many employers agree with.
It could be argued that allowing/encouraging your employees to listen to their own music (on headphones, online or via streaming services), strengthens relationships and builds trust. Some would counter that this should be seen as a privilege and should be matched to them achieving their goals.

Barney Hooper from PRS for Music, is quoted as saying, "If you pick the right music it can make your working environment so much better. I can't imagine a day without listening to music and work would drag without the radio on in the background."

But is music right for the kind of work we do?

Obviously different working environments, and jobs, work differently but there is evidence to suggest that listening to music works positively across many different types of work.

Research from PRS for Music finds that 40% of business owners find that playing music can increase sales. In the areas of retail and hospitality, listening to music has a strong impact with 81% of retailers and 84% of hospitality businesses stating music is essential to their workplace.

Another study conducted by Teresa Lesiuk from the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, suggests that IT workers who listen to music come up with better ideas and complete tasks quicker than those that don't.

This is all great, but what's the science behind it?

There's a reason that certain pieces of music make you feel different things. Music boosts the production of chemicals in the brain that are linked to all sorts of positive feelings.

The sound of music increases two neurotransmitters; dopamine (which helps regulate emotional responses) and serotonin, which can affect social behaviour and mood.

Songs can immediately trigger emotions and nostalgic feelings, all of which produce a happier member of staff.
Listening to music activates the brain in the same way as food, sex, and even drugs according to an  experiment from McGill College. It also aids blood flow to areas of the brain that work with emotion, reward, and arousal according to the study.

Furthermore, medically, music has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, aid memory and increase motivation.

All this shows why people get so passionate about music and why the right music, at the right time, in the right environment can have a positive impact.

OK, so what is the right kind of music for my workplace?

This is an important question! You need to control what is played to not distract your staff and to get the best results from their work. It's safe to say playing death metal in your office will not have the desired effect.

PRS research has found that 88% of people work best when listening to one of four genres of music, which help certain types of work.

- Classical music is best for solving mathematical problems.
- Dance music is best for proof-reading.
- Ambient music improves accuracy, especially in data-entry.
- Pop Music is best for working accurately and quickly 

Pop music seems to be a solid choice with 58% of people achieving their goals more quickly when listening to pop tunes. Soft, instrumental ambient music is cited as being brilliant for improving concentration and creativity. If you need to concentrate, science tells us that choosing familiar songs are best to keep your brain focused on the task at hand.

So, when is music not appropriate?

While listening to music obviously has many benefits, it is not always productive or appropriate in every scenario. You might need to change the type of music being played, or turn it off altogether, depending on the work that needs to be completed.

For example, music with lyrics can be distracting especially if you are needing to take in new information or concentrate on specific data. When lyrics are present your brain needs to process the auditory data as well as the information you are trying to retain for your work.

This can lead to mistakes and reduced productivity. In these circumstances, it is best to opt for instrumental pieces of music with a low tempo to aid deep focus.

Also, it is worth paying attention to the requests and wishes of the staff in the office. If a music choice or the volume is too high, and this is distracting or annoying anyone in the workplace it is worth changing the situation.

Help or hinder?

There's a lot of evidence to suggest that listening to music in the workplace is a good thing, but it is all about balance based on what you want to achieve and the environment you want to create. Music could be the office tool you have been looking for to improve your business.

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