Many people listen to music while working, claiming that it helps them focus on work. Moreover, research has recently shown that music has a positive effect on creativity. Although modern offices are quite different from old-fashioned offices and cubicles from years ago, back then, even though it might have been depressing, it was quiet and people were separated.

Today in modern offices, there are wide-open spaces with a lot of desks and a lot of people in one large room. That creates a lot of noise and plenty of distractions. More recently people have used headphones to listen to music, as there exists a myriad of options available today, examples of such can be seen on this website.

Music can help neutralize the noise by using a small distraction to block out the big disruptions. On the other hand, when you have developed a certain skill, music can help you to be more productive, focused and feel less tired.

However, if you are trying to learn something new and develop a new skill or solve a difficult problem, music can actually make it more difficult. What you should also have in mind is the policy of the company. Some companies frown upon music in the workplace so inform yourself before you blast your music while working.

Why people listen to music?

People have enjoyed listening to music for centuries because it has a positive effect not only on their mental but also physical health. When you listen to your favorite songs, your brain releases dopamine, which increases happiness and joy. At the same time, it decreases levels of cortisol, which helps decrease stress levels. When you are happier and less stressed, especially when we take into consideration the devastating effects of stress on our health, you will have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing. It will strengthen your immune system and help you sleep better.

Music can have a motivational effect which will make your performance better when you are running or doing other exercises. But, it can also elevate your mood when you are driving, and also keep you more focused and awake. Some researchers claim that music in combination with soft lighting helps people eat less food and at the same time, enjoy it more.

Listening to podcasts is a different story and you might want to reserve that for your commute as much brain processing power is needed to let the knowledge sink in.

When we take into consideration all the above, we can come to the conclusion that music can help reduce one of the most frequent mental illnesses of the modern era—depression. Besides dopamine, music helps the release of serotonin, both responsible for our happiness and euphoria we feel when we are truly happy. But some types of music like heavy metal or techno might not be the best choice when you suffer from depression. The bottom line, different genres have different effects on different people. You need to find out what kind of music evokes positive feelings within you.

Pros

If music has such a great impact on people’s minds and bodies, you can be sure it has the same effect while people are working. Recent research and studies on this subject showed the benefits music has on the employees, and they included all employees, not just those in retail.

  1. Focus – The majority of people were more focused and performed better when they listened to music while they work.
  2. Stress reduction – Music can help people relax and deal better with the problems they face during their workday. It can help them be less anxious and stressed out.
  3. Motivation – When somebody likes listening to music while working and you allow them to have that in their workplace, they will be more motivated to come to work and complete their tasks because they feel comfortable there.
  4. Memory – The studies have shown that music stimulates the part of the brain that is responsible for our memory. Therefore, it helps us remember and recall better and easier.
  5. Happiness – If an employee is happy while working, he or she is generally more satisfied in life. We spend half of our day doing our jobs and traveling to and from work. It is crucial that we are happy and satisfied in the workplace.
  6. Team and friendship building – Music can help co-workers bond and even become friends if they are listening to the same music or improve their relationship just because of the fact they are more relaxed in the workplace.

Cons

It is not all great when it comes to this subject. There are also some disadvantages to music in the workplace.

  1. Distraction – It is important to choose the right genre that is suitable for your personality, your surroundings and the type of task you work on. If you choose the wrong genre, there is a risk your mind might wander to some past events in your life or make you daydream. It is crucial to know what kind of music boosts your productivity and focus. For that reason, do your research well.
  2. Feeling overwhelmed – If you are learning a new skill or solving a difficult problem, music playing in the background can make you feel overwhelmed. You have to know what tasks are requiring complete silence and then turn the music off.
  3. Your colleagues might not like the music – in which case you have to compromise and get headphones or if you are overnumbered, you have to work in silence.
  4. You might seem unapproachable – if you are listening to music all day long or you have your headphones all day, people might think you want to shut down the world. They will probably hesitate to talk to you and eventually give up. Maybe the moderate solution is to get earphones and keep only one in your ear. That way, you will still listen to music but at the same time, you will hear when your colleagues try to talk to you or when your phone rings.
  5. Ear damage – listening to music all day long, especially if you wear headphones might damage your hearing in the long run if the volume is too loud.

Useful tips

It’s reasonable to assume you can’t be effective at work while listening to all types and genres of music. It is not a universal rule that music helps your productivity, but carefully chosen music can actually help you be more productive. Here are some tips.

Find the right volume: It is not true that lower volume distracts you less. You need to find the volume level that suits you best. Sometimes, when the level is low, we will try more to hear what is playing and that might distract you. On the other hand, if you turn it up too much that it actually creates noise instead of a useful tool for boosting your productivity. Nobody can think or make decisions when the music is too loud. So, find the moderate level that suits your type of job and your personality.

Fewer lyrics: The best choice for work is the music that has no or little lyrics. The reason for it is that we will try to sing along if we like the song. That is why many people choose classical music, instrumentals or house music. If that is not your cup of tea, you can try listening to foreign music. If you don’t understand the language, you won’t be tempted to sing along and get distracted.

There are also video game soundtracks, sounds of nature or even the white noise. Some people like jazz, especially the slow jazz tunes. But other genres can also have the same effect because it all depends on the person. For example, ambient music helps to be more accurate when doing data entry, classical music also helps accuracy, dance music can improve the proofreading, pop music reduces mistakes, etc.

Avoid offensive and abusive lyrics: If you still choose to play music with lyrics, make sure the songs don’t contain abusive or offensive lyrics or strong language. These lyrics don’t belong in the workplace and will create unnecessary tensions between people.

Choose the music you are familiar with: If you don’t like classical music, instrumentals or the idea of listening to foreign music, you can choose the songs you are very much familiar with. When you know all the beats and all the lyrics, there is no surprise element or any curiosity so it won’t take the focus off from your work.

Sometimes the silence is necessary

When you make a decision to work while the music on, you need to keep in mind the results you want to achieve. If you or your office are close to an important deadline, maybe it is better to turn off the music. You don’t need to play it at all times. But also, keep in mind that you are not alone in the workplace. Some of your co-workers might like working in complete silence. Therefore, you should consider putting the headphones on, try not to sing along or hum to the tune or, even worse, tap hands and feet. Don’t dance. Be respectful to your colleagues.

In conclusion, music can boost your productivity, but you need to be selective about the type of music, appropriate volume levels and of course, what kind of task you need to perform.

Natalia Anderson

Happy camper, wanderlust traveller and proud "outdoors-girl". Amateur travel writer with an appreciation for adventures, hazelnut coffee and hair-raising mountain biking trails.

I’m way tougher than what I may look like!
Natalia Anderson

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