The question that really picked up steam in the Walkman era is admittedly still confusing researchers to this day – ‘Can music at work make me more productive?”. As Spotify and other streaming services now reside within the devices that billions of people employ in their daily workflows, it’s a question that is still begging for a definitive answer.
What conclusion have we reached so far? Does music really make you work better? Well, it depends. It definitely could and it also definitely couldn’t. In short, it’s conditional to the music you’re listening to, the kind of work you do, the type of person you are and the task you’re set to complete.
Let’s analyse the studies, fork out some pros and cons of work listening and dive into some ways that you can uplift the power of squiggly sound waves in your work day.
What the science says
There’s plenty of evidence that suggests that music can significantly improve mental wellbeing and mood. There’s also studies that show that repetitive tasks are streamlined by tunes. There have been deep-dives into the personality types that best resonate to music and, going back more than 80 years, there were even government-backed radio shows designed to uplift worker productivity in factories!
Sorry to burst any bubbles, though, because none of these efforts could comprehensively prove that “music” as a whole makes you work better. However, amidst the data and scientific jargon, we can deduce that certain kinds of music can be incredibly beneficial to workplace productivity, memory retention and task speed at certain times.
This naturally leaves room for argument that, outside these constraints, music can do the opposite. So, let’s be pragmatic and outline a few pros and cons of music at work.
Why you should listen to music at work
Music can increase employee happiness and decrease workplace stress
Music engages your brain in a way that not many other mediums can. In fact, music has been proven to activate some of the most diverse neural networks in the brain and stimulate remarkable amounts of oxytocin and dopamine – hormones responsible for positive emotion. That means music has the ability to make you happier and also less stressed within the workplace.
Music can increase motivation and productivity
With decreased stress and increased happiness comes a greater feeling of motivation. When in this stimulated mode, workers are shown to be more productive and engage with their work with a fruitful energy.
Music can aid memory retention
An engaged brain lends to less fatigue, brain fog and a greater capacity to retain information. When learning a new skill or absorbing client insights, music may be the key to locking that information in!
Music can amplify repetitive tasks
Repetitive tasks are normally associated with boredom, a feeling that is shown to disengage the brain. Many of us deal with repetitive activities in our day-to-day work activities, but, luckily, music has the potential to reinvigorate your flow. Music has shown to increase concentration and also make these tasks more enjoyable.
Why you shouldn't listen to music at work
Some kinds of music can decrease mental clarity
Not all music has that productive spark, studies show. Some genres in particular, like hip-hop, modern pop and other lyrical-driven sounds, can actually introduce the brain fog. Why? Well, it becomes a fight of information absorption. Ever tried to write a report when someone is talking in your ear?
Music may break concentration
To extend on the above point, there are certain sounds that can snap you out of focus and pull you out of “deep work”. Deep work is a concept popularised by Georgetown University computer scientist, Cal Newport, in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. It describes a “professional activity performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit”.
Some people struggle to work with music
A study that compared the effects of music on introverts and extroverts found some interesting results. Extroverts exposed to music during a memory test triumphed in both short and long-term recall while introverts exposed to the same tunes performed significantly worse. This makes way for the fact that some people are simply more easily distracted than others.
Music can disrupt others
Now we’re exploring exactly how the music is listened to. If you’re listening to tunes out loud in your home office alone – that’s awesome! If you’re pumping the beats in your shared workspace – not so much. Listeners need to keep in mind that music may affect those around them differently and that, in more labour-intensive workplaces, music may compromise a coworker’s ability to operate dangerous machinery. Employers also mention the issue of foot-tapping in the workplace – another distraction!
How to work productively with music
Drawing on the studies and our deep dive, here are three golden rules that could allow you to reap the benefits of music-energised work.
Play the right music
Music is one of the most varied types of entertainment that humans can indulge in. Jazz, hip hop, black metal, classical, techno, afrobeat – what makes people move is all in the ears of the beholder. BUT, that doesn’t always translate to the best working music.
Studies suggest that you first have to decide what kind of mood or focus your work requires and then choose the sounds that complement it. You can go for albums or playlists, as long as there is a distinct vibe throughout. For example, to achieve:
Clarity and focus
Speed and accuracy
Energy and positivity
You’ll notice that all of these suggestions keep lyrics to a minimum – that’s the key! At the end of the day though, you know your vibe better than anyone, so if you find something that works, stick with it.
Keep the music to yourself
Everybody resonates with music differently. So, to best focus on the task at hand and also let those around you focus too, pop your earphones or headphones on. No one likes being distracted.
Be ready to turn it off
Sometimes, there won’t be any kind of music that does the trick. Maybe that’s because your mind’s racing or you’re in an easily distracted mood. That’s ok! If your ears are feeling too full to focus, don’t be afraid to harness the silence.
Empowered by the tunes in our ears
The team here at INFIX Creative Studio are no stranger to a tune or two. Music is a natural part of the office, whether that be in the form of a communal listen-along or individual listening, and we believe it helps us outstretch the creative content and strategies that our clients have come to expect from us.
Whether you’re looking for a content or marketing strategy, copywriting services, website development or simply a record to spin in your office, book in a complimentary consultation with INFIX today.