Do you, like so many people around the world, like listening to music while working, reading, writing, or doing something that requires concentration? Does it help you increase your productivity, output, and quality? If so, then you’re not alone.
In offices worldwide, music is used as an effective way of keeping employees motivated, focused, relaxed, and most importantly, happy. Aside from drowning out noise & distractions, playing music at work has also proven itself as an effective tool for reducing stress & anxiety!
However, not all songs are suitable for a work environment. Some genres like funk, soul, pop, and salsa – while great for setting the mood in a disco or a club – are less suited to your average corporate office. Usually, in such an environment, something calm & relaxing is the way to go.
But how exactly does music increase concentration & productivity? What’s the science behind it? And why should companies be careful what music they broadcast around the office? Read on to find out…
Okay, so is music at work a new concept?
Nope – as you’re probably well aware, music at work is not a new concept.
In fact, it’s been all the rage since World War 2 when the UK government launched the ‘Music While You Work Program’, in which upbeat notes were broadcast across factories nationwide twice a day, with an aim of increasing munitions manufacturing. The result: it worked!
So really, it’s no surprise that a few years back, a study involving 2000 Britons found that more than 47% preferred listening to tunes while they work, due to its positive effects on stress levels. This was especially the case for those employees working from home, who considered music to be an indispensable weapon in the battle against procrastination.
All of this largely comes back to the type of music, as well as how music is produced. Something that all comes back to obvious factors like the rhythm & lyrics, as well as other slightly less ‘in-your-face characteristics, like the arrangement & how the overall song is mixed.
How does music help boost productivity and concentration?
If you believe the science, listening to music while you work increases dopamine levels, stimulating the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for cognitive performance, concentration, attention & organising.
Music also plays an essential role in increasing concentration by neutralising the subconscious attention system – part of the brain that’s responsible for creating distractions in the mind. Unconscious attention refers to that part of the mind that is permanently active, despite someone’s conscious attention being focused on a particular task.
Since the slightest distraction is enough to activate the unconscious attention system, it can make concentration quite a challenge. Most likely why libraries are a hot spot for studying, & not football stadiums. However, should you find yourself in a busy space, white or pink noise is said to be the way to decrease this level of activation, allowing you to be 100% focused on the task at hand?
What type of sounds is best for the work environment?
For the workplace, not all sounds are appropriate.
And while the specific type of music that works best for each individual does differ, most experts are in agreement that classical and natural sounds are best suited for the work environment. So if you’re an employer, you may want to think twice about turning on the radio. Confiscate it if you must.
A study called ‘The Mozart Effect’, conducted in 1999 by the science journal, Nature concluded that listening to the notes of Mozart – the classical composer – helps boost the brain’s ability to perform specific spatial tasks by improving brain function called spatial and temporal reasoning.
But that’s not all. Another study – this time conducted in 2015 – found that listening to Mozart’s Sonata increased the alpha band waves which are crucial for both concentration and general cognitive performance!
And if that’s not enough, besides classical, other forms of music have also been proven to help relax people in the workplace.
Why do you think a hectic coffee shop will play Jazz music? And a high-end restaurant will play the odd Blues tune? Both these sounds help to relax & soothe your brain + in a retail setting, they’ve even been proven to influence spending habits too.
So before you stereotype music as just ‘another distraction’, or decide to blast the Billboard Hot 100 around your office, think again. Because there’s a lot more to music than meets the eye. So much in fact that you’d be a fool to underestimate it.
In the words of Louis Armstrong, “Music is life itself”.