Listening to music at work: yay or nay?

Most of us have some music playing in the background when working. Whether you prefer to work at the office, from home or at a local café – music surrounds us everywhere and helps us concentrate. We take a look at some factual data to see how listening to music at work affects your productivity.

listening to music at work

When you listen to music at work on headphones it blocks out distracting noises – an increasing necessity as teams move to open environments with sideline conversations, sales calls, and ad hoc meetings taking place all around you. My office is crazy busy, especially during the summer months, so this saved my career two or three times already.

Recently I stumbled upon a Business Insider article on listening to music at work which fascinated me. They reached out to Daniel Levitin, a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of ” This is Your Brain on Music” to ask for his opinion. His main advice was to listen to music for 10 to 15 minutes before you start working. He explained that listening to tunes you enjoy can put you in a better mood and relax you. Your brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which gives you a “warm feeling of pleasure.” You may also get a hit of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which elevates your mood and can make it easier to focus.

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office table minimalistic

LinkedIn Business Solutions also gathered some data on listening to music at work:

  • Research from neuropsychologists at Mindlab International last year found that nine out of ten workers produced more accurate test results when listening to music than when surrounded by silence – evidence that music in general has a generally positive impact on mental alertness.
  • That same research suggests different types of music are better suited to different tasks. For example, classical music works best if you’re making calculations and need attention to detail, pop music is for entering data, dance music – for proof-reading.
  • Earlier research from a collection of music licensing companies found that business owners (in particular, smaller business owners) have a lot of faith in music boosting morale and productivity. In fact, 40% went so far to claim that the music they played increased sales.
  • The neuroscience as to how music affects different parts of the brain comes from experiments conducted at McGill college in 2001 – and the impact on wellbeing of dopamine, which music helps to release, has been frequently studied.
  • That all adds up to a lot of positive evidence for the impact of music on productivity – but the nuances of how music affects the brain also mean that it’s very bad news for certain tasks. If your work requires linguistic processing (if you’re writing something for example) then music with lyrics can interfere with your mental processes. The same applies when you are trying to learn new information.

office music

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Are you listening to music at work? Which genre helps you concentrate the most? Let us know in the comment section below.

Text: Irina Gorskaia

Images: Unsplash

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