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Are Your Coworkers Judging Your Taste in Music?

Topics: Data & Research

You get a little bounce in your step when that funky beat comes on the radio. But that doesn’t mean your coworkers want to hear your personal playlist.

A new survey conducted by Cloudcover Music found that the majority of respondents (voluntarily) listened to music at work. Over 1,000 employees and employers shared their feelings on how doing so boosts their productivity — or derails it altogether.

Music Soothes the Savage Work Beast

A boost in productivity sounds nice, especially when it can be achieved passively by listening to some music. But the Cloudcover Music survey found that people definitely have different opinions on what’s productive and what’s distracting.

According to the survey, people perceived that productivity increased 78.4 percent when music was played. But the survey also found that 1 in 10 employers thought it created a distraction. When everyone was listening to the same playlist, 36.1 percent of employers felt that the music united their team.

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Music Can Unite Us…or Divide Us

Out of those surveyed, classic rock lovers dominated, with 31 percent choosing it as their productive work soundtrack. However, 13.1 percent of others felt classic rock reduced their productivity. While 21.1 percent chose hip-hop, 37.7 percent of others thought that hip-hop decreased productivity. And with 11.2 percent of respondents loved listening to heavy metal as their sonic backdrop, 37.1 percent would rather not.

Music genres with high “likes” and low “dislikes” included classical, as well as soundtracks to your particular generation, like music from the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s. (Jock Jams did not make the list.)

Mandatory musical Fun

If you work in public places like a retail store or a hotel, you might be subjected to the dreaded “corporate playlist” where you have no control over what you hear or how often it repeats. (True story: One of my first retail jobs was at the mall, where I heard the same four classical music soundtracks all summer long played over the PA system. I still get queasy when I hear the “Nutcracker Suite” in the middle of June.)

The Cloudcover Music survey found, in fact, that by far the most hated of corporate work soundtracks are those that are played over and over, with 62.5 percent of respondents chiming in against them. At the holidays, this feels especially real, when you hear “Santa Baby” in every single store you enter. (Shudder).

An Escape From the Grind

When you get to choose your auditory landscape at work, you can do so with headphones at your desk. You can choose how your music affects you, without affecting others nearby. In the survey, they found that 55.4 percent of workers choose to use headphones during the workday.

What may not surprise you is 30 percent of those who are using headphones are just canceling out the noise of the office, without playing any music or audio. And 46 percent of headphone users are just using them to avoid having another awkward conversation with Carl from Accounting.

It might even be your choice to listen to non-music at work to boost productivity, like nature sounds or a recording of some soothing white noise. That’s cool.

Music Makes Us Judge

When you’re the office DJ or just rocking out with your speakers out, your coworkers are going to judge you. About 1 in 4 (25.9 percent) of survey respondents said they definitely judge coworkers’ music tastes. So if you’re spinning the Spotify list or just sharing a new favorite track with the team, think before you hit “play,” all right? We don’t want you shamed later.


What’s your auditory preference at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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