Previously on this blog, we have explored the history of the relationship between music and the workplace and workers’ productivity, but how can music be used to enhance the modern day employee experience?
Scientists have long been fascinated with musical studies, and have reached several useful and interesting conclusions. Here, we count down the top three suggestions for music to boost productivity in the workplace, and take a look at the reasons why they are so popular and effective.
The Mozart Effect is one such conclusion. This popular and oft-cited study found that listening to Mozart for even a brief period of time improved the “abstract reasoning ability” of participants undertaking a test. A control group, who sat through 10 minutes of silence, and another group who listened to 10 minutes of a relaxation soundtrack, performed worse in the test than the Mozart listeners.
Although the Mozart effect has since been contested by other researchers, a more recent study found a similarly encouraging link between the reading comprehension of school children who took classical music education, compared to children who had not.
Often linked to classical music, instrumental music has its own benefits on employees. The main benefit of instrumental pieces is that they do not distract your brain from the task at hand; where music with lyrics is good for getting you buoyed up for an intense gym session, when performing language based tasks (like writing or reading), lyrics are a huge distraction, as they engage the same part of the brain that’s required to carry out your work.
For the majority of office-based employees, then, instrumental music is the most suitable and effective choice. After all, it's important not to let anything get in the way of those all-important emails and spreadsheets!
While not strictly a type of music, white noise is a popular choice for many people who find music too distracting or unsuitable for their work environment, yet find the idea of working in silence too overwhelming. White noise can also be used to counter anxiety disorders, and can also aid those with sleep difficulties, so has many applications outside the workplace itself.
Interestingly, a study found that a “moderate level” of ambient noise in a workplace boosted creativity. This suggests that for workers in creative industries, white noise could be the best option, no matter how much you love a good office singalong!
In short, there are a number of factors that affect workers’ response to music in the workplace. There is no “one size fits all” approach and you should take the time to learn which sounds benefit you personally; if none of them are quite your cup of tea, then there is always the noise-cancelling headphones option. Just don’t be surprised when your boss creeps up behind you and taps you on the shoulder after calling your name umpteen times!