- Should workplace managers curate music in the workplace, or let people choose their own tunes?
- Music has the ability to improve performance in specific tasks — for instance, ambient music has been found to improve accuracy of data entry in 92% of people.
- It’s important to match the music to the task, which is why activity-based work environments have the high ground.
Music has for a long time been a source of division in the workplace. Back in the day, before headphones and earphones were a commodity, it was common for coworkers in an office to argue about whether the radio should be turned on or off.
Today, it seems most workers enjoy listening to music while they work; some do it so that people don’t interrupt them (headphones send a clear signal of “don’t talk to me”), some because they want to tune out the background office noise, and others because they feel music helps them get into the right state of mind to work.
Unfortunately, there are some people who complain about constant use of headphones arguing that they can negatively affect a company’s culture and community.
But recent research has found that music can increase productivity, improve cognitive tasks, and improve a person’s mood. So the question isn’t whether people should listen to music in the workplace, instead the question is what type of music they should listen to and how should they listen to it.
In other words, should you let people choose their own music or should workplace managers curate the music in the workplace?
Research has found that different genres of music affect people differently. WebFX gathered data from different studies and found that:
- Ambient music: improves accuracy of data entry in 92% of people
- Dance music: improves proofreading speed by 20%
- Classical music: improves accuracy by 12%
- Pop music: reduces mistakes by 14%
- Pop music: faster task completion by 58%.
Suggested Reading: “The Best Movie Soundtracks to Work to”
A different research study found that listening to streamlined music — music that is electronically recorded and designed with the aim of increasing an individual’s focus on cognitive tasks by improving endogenous attention and reducing exogenous attention — improves performance in four specific measures: task persistence, implicit precognition, creative thinking, and perceived focus.
Another study found that happy music “significantly and positively influences cooperative behavior.”
Tuning In: Headphones vs Speakers
Speaking to Forbes, Nicole Stillings, aka DJ Rose, argues that when it comes to music in the workplace the most important thing to do is to match the music to the task. This means that even if you have speakers in place, you shouldn’t play the same music across the workplace, as people are likely working on different tasks.
Moreover, not everyone likes the same music and some people still prefer to work in quiet areas. Playing music across the office could have some backlash, especially if you’re playing music some people are not drawn to. Rather than improving productivity and creativity, these situations can be detrimental to workplace performance.
This is why activity-based work environments have the high ground. These types of environments are created and designed for specific types of work and tasks, which means that you can easily curate and play music to fit each work environment (including quiet areas where no music is played at all).
Even if this is the case, you might find people will still opt to listen to music with their headphones. But don’t take it personally, some people simply like to have control over the music they hear. In any case, it all goes back to choice: people can choose to tune into what you’re streaming or tune into whatever works for them.
In any case, if you’ll be curating music in your workplace and you create a playlist, you might as well share it with those in your office; though they might not listen to it all the time, it might come in handy at other times and it can help increase brand awareness and loyalty.