Listening to Music at Work

Listening to music can be a mechanism for coping with distractions and stress. Not only can it be incredibly soothing, but it can improve mood and focus, engage both sides of the brain and inspire creativity. Another advantage of listening to music in the office is that it offers some welcome variation to what can be monotonous or tedious tasks – making a boring project more enjoyable and passing time much quicker.

Although music listening can be very beneficial, some folks may find it counterproductive, as their attention focuses primarily on the beat or the lyrics versus on the work-related task at hand. For others, some light music gets them “in the zone.” It is because of this contrast that the freedom of choice is really vital to the success of an office. Even if everyone agreed that music listening suited them, it would be very hard to agree upon what genre of music was best. Therefore, employees can become very frustrated in workplaces where they’re forced to listen to whatever is played over the PA system. It is only when employees have control over when they listen (if at all) and what they listen to, that the positive effects of music can be maximized.

There are a number of free, popular internet radio services you can use during the day, such as Pandora, Grooveshark, and Spotify. There are a number of other ways to get your music fill, but remember, it is generally best practice not to download any music to your work computer, and it is never okay to illegally download at work.

Now that we’ve covered the why and where of music listening at work, we’ll look at the what and how.

Studies have been conducted on the type of music that most effectively heightens focus and mood, however results have been inconclusive. This may be due in large part to the fact that musical tastes are highly personalized. When deciding what type of music helps you achieve your personal best consider using a trial and error method – maybe you’ll even find that it changes with each day, or each task.

Volume is an important consideration when thinking about listening to music at work. Your music should not be loud enough to disrupt other employees, nor should it be so loud that you cannot hear a co-worker call your name (particularly when you’re using headphones). It is essential to find a level that balances blocking out distracting noise while allowing important information to be processed.

One word of caution for those using headphones: they make you much less approachable. This may be an advantage if you have colleagues that constantly interrupt you for tenuous reasons. However, if customer service is a large part of your job, it may be best to forego the headphones.

Reference your organization’s employee policies and procedures handbook to see if there are any guidelines that specifically mention music listening. If there are none, you may want to ask your supervisor their thoughts beforehand. This will prevent the need to hide the habit and absolve you of any guilt you may have felt. When approaching this discussion with your boss, be prepared to explain the numerous gains/benefits outlined in this post.

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