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Music Affects Worker Productivity


If we all cranked up our music at work, everyone’s productivity would suffer. But in small doses and at reasonable volumes, music can be extremely beneficial in the workplace. Different types of music have different influences on our behavior and productivity.


(Photo Credit: feverblue/Flickr)

Gregory Ciotti at Sparring Mind compiled interesting research studies on how listening to music affects our behavior at work. In short: to maximize your productivity, choose the type of music that helps with the specific task at hand.

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Repetitive Tasks

Music is helpful when workers are performing repetitive tasks. Anybody making their living in the restaurant industry likely knows that once the house is empty, the radio gets turned up while the staff completes their cleaning routine. Listening to music makes them faster and more productive. Researchers believe this is due, in part, to the music putting people in a good mood.

Lots of jobs and professions have their share of repetitive tasks that must be competed on a regular basis. However, Ciotti goes on to explain that productivity increases while listening to music in major mode. Music in minor mode or with dissonant tones did not improve worker speed, efficiency, or productivity.


Lyrics can be extremely distracting. They might help you exercise at the gym, but if you must put thought into what you are doing, words will most likely to distract you. For example, alphabetizing files is a simple and somewhat repetitive task, but music with lyrics may disrupt necessary focus.

Genres of Music

Ciotti lists three genres of music that seem to have the most benefit for workers:

  • Classical (Baroque)
  • Electronic; and (believe it or not)
  • Video Game Music.

Not all classical music is alike. Science Daily reports that Baroque music played in the radiology reading room improved diagnostic accuracy. This music is a great choice when need to use your critical thinking skills.

Electronic music is more similar to a soundscape. It is repetitive, which makes it not as distracting, but fills the void when “silence is deafening.”

Video game music composers are skilled at writing music to keep players engaged but not distract them from their tasks. Hence, as ironic as it may seem, video game music may keep workers engaged but not distracted. Ciotti mentions the soundtrack to SimCity as helping with concentration.

If you do listen to music at work, just make sure your coworkers are not disturbed, or that everyone agrees they want to listen!

Tell Us What You Think

Do you listen to music at work? What genre do you listen to? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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