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Is Listening to Music at Work Really Good for Productivity?


Some people like to listen to music while they work, believing that it helps them improve their focus, and maybe even their mood. But, is there any truth behind the idea that listening to music around the office is good for productivity? Might some music do the trick better than others? We looked to science for some answers. Here are a few things we discovered.


(Photo Credit: bloomsberries/Flickr)

1. Music in the office gets mixed reviews.

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The fact of the matter is, listening to music to improve focus works for some but not for others. While music has been found to be disturbing to some workers’ focus, it can also help manage some other distractions around the office when they get too overpowering. Similarly, music seemed to have a relaxing effect when folks chose to listen to it, but many found it annoying when it was forced upon them. So, know yourself. Does music work for you? If so, keep in mind that might not be the case for your co-workers.

2. Consider using headphones or earbuds.

If listening to music is good for you, if it helps you stay motivated and focused, consider using earbuds or headphones to help you make it happen. This way, you’re not forcing your preference on others who could feel differently. The great thing about these devices is not only that they allow you to listen to your tunes without bothering anyone else, they also help to cut out other distractions which will allow you to stay on task. Assuming your office is headphone-friendly, using them could help you create your own personal work-zone that’s pretty tough to penetrate.

3. Music affects your brain, and stirs emotions.

The good people at How Stuff Works set out to discover how music impacts mood and behavior. They found that music fires up brain activity, and that if the songs contain lyrics, then the parts of the brain that process language also get involved. Also, our brains process music emotionally. Fast-paced music, or music written in a major key, has been shown to cause people to breathe faster, which is a physiological indicator of happiness. The reverse is also true for slower music written in a minor key. So, when picking music for your workplace playlist, try to keep things lively.

4. Certain songs can make you happier, according to research.

Dr. Jacob Jolij, a Dutch cognitive neuroscientist, came up with a formula based on his research, in an attempt to pinpoint songs that make people happier. The songs that topped the list delivered a combination of the right tempo, key, and lyrics, which generally had a positive theme. The ’70s jam “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen received an excellent rating, for example. And ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” along with “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, also fit the bill. The takeaway is that you should construct your office playlist carefully – some songs might be better to include than others.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s on your office playlist? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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