How Productive Are You When Listening To Music At Work?

As someone who’s highly detail-oriented and concerned (almost to a compulsive degree) with the quality of their work, I used to think that listening to music at work is a needless distraction so I avoided it at any costs. That was until I had to share an office with a music aficionado, my social media colleague, who opened me up to a whole new world of productivity and sound.

In the past year, I found myself bouncing up and down my chair and typing frantically as I was answering emails, compiling tasks and checking online mentions. Music has now become an important part of my workday for one single reason: it puts me in a great mood.

I’m not alone in this, almost everyone I know listens to music at some point during their working hours, surpassing difficult moments such as Monday blues, post-lunch sleepiness or simply boring hours.

The science of listening to music at work

Over time, several studies have had conclusive results that show how music makes employees more productive when dealing with repetitive tasks such as answering emails or entering data. For example, a study from 1995 by researchers at the University of Illinois showed that listening to music with headphones made workers more effective, with impressive productivity spikes in simple, repetitive tasks such as data entry, where productivity rose by about a full 14%.

Supporting my impression that being in a great mood makes me more productive, this study shows that the improved mood that your favorite music creates that is the source of the increase in productivity.

And here’s another study that shows how a moderate noise level, say from ambiental music, can foster creativity, thus improving productivity.

The best tasks to do when listening to music

As I mentioned before, repetitive tasks that don’t require deep concentration or learning are best suited to be accompanied by music.

When it comes to performing more complex tasks like creating a detailed strategy, writing a scientific paper or analyzing a performance review, your brain might find the music too distracting.

Listening to music when performing this type of immersive tasks is counterproductive because your brain is concentrating on listening to the lyrics or anticipating what’s next in  a new song. If the song you’re listening to has lyrics, then the parts of the brain that process language, Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas are activated, making learning more difficult. Some music can even activate our visual cortex as your brain tries to construct a visual image of the changes in pitch and tone, or trigger neurons in the motor cortex, making you bounce and tap your foot. (How stuff works).

You can try listening to familiar music or classical music in case of more complex tasks, if you’re uncomfortable working in silence or if your office is too noisy. This particular study shows that Baroque-period music seems to have a measurable impact on productivity.

Where to find music to listen to at work

Here are some websites and apps that can help you with finding any kind of music to listen to at work:

  • 8tracks
  • SoundCloud
  • Freely licensed files on Wikipedia
  • Spotify
  • Pandora
  • OverClocked Remix

Or you can try Happy Track, a newly launched music app for iOS (soon on Android as well), that sends its users an uplifting track everyday to make them feel good.

Happy Track music ranges from current releases, remixes of dance, soul and pop to old school classics suggested by music industry professionals and fans of the app.The app allows users to listen to the track, like the track, share it on social media and create their own playlist. Users can also suggest their own feel good track to send to Happy Track HQ to be played on the app.

You can download it for free here: .

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