Without music, we’d be missing out on something wonderful – but is there a time and a place for everything? While it is one of our favourite leisure activities, is it okay to listen to music in the office?
It’s impossible to imagine a world without music. Whether you go to live gigs, listen to the radio, watch videos on YouTube, enjoy film soundtracks, or pop on your headphones at the gym, music is a massive source of pleasure for millions of people.
While more than one billion people enjoy YouTube, there’s a big difference between listening in the comfort of your home, compared with sitting in the office. While some workers believe music is food for your brain and soul, others see it as distracting when trying to do their job.
There are pros and cons to listening to music in the workplace and it can come down to personal preference and having some respect for colleagues’ needs too.
Benefits of listening to music
Music has a unique ability to bring out our emotions and stir memories from the past. Research has revealed a direct link between the joy stimulated by listening to music and dopamine, a neurotransmitter that triggers a positive emotional reaction in the brain.
It can lift your spirits and motivate you to do things. While the instruments may have changed, the same basic human reaction has occurred for hundreds of years. The question is whether listening to music in the workplace is as beneficial as listening for pleasure during leisure time.
Pros and cons of workplace music
Music in the workplace can be a great idea or a terrible one, depending on your personal preferences. It has been used in the workplace for many years. The BBC even launched a radio programme called Music While You Work in 1940. Bands playing on the show were asked to play medleys with a lively and upbeat rhythm to grab the workers’ attention and inspire greater productivity.
Studies have shown listening to soothing and gentle music at work can reduce stress levels and negative feelings, contributing to a more relaxed atmosphere. Some enjoy a short break from their desk and listen to music to give their brain a rest.
It can create a sense of wellbeing in the office by putting people in a good mood. It can also help you to concentrate on what you’re doing by detracting from colleagues talking and other distractions in a busy office.
However, some find music in the office quite distracting. If there’s a general buzz in the main office, some may choose to go into a quieter meeting room to talk on the phone, or complete a complex report, for example.
Others say they get sucked into the music by listening to the lyrics, so they can’t concentrate on their work as a result. Their emotional response to music is too great for it to be simply “white noise” and it takes over.
Most people who don’t like music in the workplace say they have no objection to colleagues listening with headphones on. They don’t view wearing headphones as being against office protocol.
How many people like workplace music?
Some studies have found almost 90% of workers prefer music in the office. Respondents were tested for productivity when working with or without music and 81% worked faster when music was playing. Their work was also accurate.
No matter what your views, you’ll never work in an office where everyone enjoys the same kind of music. While one person might find bouncy pop with a good beat keeps them motivated, another might prefer classical tunes. Others will prefer gentle music in the background. If you work in a modern, shared workspace, such as a coworking space, research shows the open space and lack of walls breaks down mental barriers, creating a greater sense of collaboration. Music can further enhance these feelings.
According to research carried out for The Sound of Productivity report, 79% of employees said they would benefit from having music at work, with 60% saying it made them feel happy. However, regardless of what the majority view is, music may not be conducive to everyone. For example, if you’re on sales calls, or trying to concentrate on working out a complex financial report, you may require a quiet environment.
While music can be a great addition to a busy, friendly and productive workplace, it will never be everyone’s choice. In a modern, inclusive workspace, it’s important everyone has their say and no one feels unhappy about their working conditions.
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