Listening to music at work is something that almost everyone enjoys.
To some people (including us), it’s almost seen as a requirement and very normal thing. To others, it’s seen as a treat since many workplaces don’t allow it. Well, it turns out that music can contribute towards productivity when working.
In this article:
- Is Listening to Music a Good Thing When Working?
- What is the Best Way to Listen to Music in the Workplace?
- Ambient Noise
Is Listening to Music a Good Thing When Working?
There have been many studies and discussions as to whether listening to music is a good thing when at work or completing tasks. While there is much evidence to support that music can improve productivity in some regards, there may also some fallbacks when listening to music.
Simone Ritter at Radboud University and Sam Ferguson at the University of Technology held a study which looked at how listening to various types of music affected different types of thinking, compared to working in silence. One thing that their study found is that happy music enhanced participants creative “divergent thinking”. However, they also concluded that it had no impact on “convergent thinking”, which is linked with problem-solving. This suggests that there are different types of music that will affect different types of our brain, resulting in increased productivity in some areas, whilst having no effect on others.
To help strengthen this research, Assistant Professor at the University of Miami, Teresa Lesiuk, investigated the effect of listening to music on work performance. According to Dr. Lesiuk’s research, those who listened to music completed their tasks quicker and brought better ideas to the table than those who didn’t.
Many people who have commented on these discussions have also shared that if they’re in a noisy workplace environment, they simply cannot concentrate without listening to music. It’s said that having too much background noise will distract the brain by using energy to process the sounds that you could otherwise be using to focus on your work. Large amounts of background noise also increase levels of cortisol, the hormone related to stress, whilst decreasing levels of dopamine.
With many scholarly articles suggesting that music can help speed up repetitive tasks, enhance creative thinking, help you focus more, and generally presenting little to no downsides of listening to music, all signs points to the fact that we should, right?
So, Music is Beneficial?
Well, when it comes to studying, research of Dr Nick Perham claims that when listening to music – regardless of how much you love or hate the sound – your “serial-recall” skills are likely to be impeded. Serial-recall skills are required for tasks ranging from mental arithmetic to language learning. He’s also found that music containing lyrics is especially disruptive during any task involving reading, which is a common point among all discussions relating to this subject.
What is the Best Way to Listen to Music in the Workplace, Then?
While output and results will vary from person-to-person, especially with varying environments and stress levels throughout different industries, there may be a best way to listen to music.
We’ve discovered that you should listen to music if:
- You’re performing a repetitive task
- You want to get your creative juices flowing
- There’s too much background noise
And that you shouldn’t listen to music if:
- You’re problem solving
- You’re trying to learn new things
- You’re reading
So, we have that as at least some sort of a guide, but there is one more method that we haven’t discussed: ambient noise.
Ambient noise has been described as “the creative sweet spot”, with most ambient sounds and music including no lyrics, whilst covering background noise. Researchers have shown that a moderate level of noise can benefit creative cognition, as long as the levels don’t get too loud.
Honestly, I think listening to music does have benefits and it helps me concentrate when performing repetitive tasks or if there is too much background noise. The results will vary from person-to-person, and everyone will have their preferences. If you’re listening to music with someone else, you might love a genre or song that they absolutely hate, so there’s bound to be different reactions.
Let us know what works for you or if this blog has helped at all! Leave a comment below.