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Music and Productivity in the Workplace

30 November, 2017

There is something to be said for listening to music while working. Many of us like to listen to music while doing household chores, cooking, or even completing work in the office - it can make time feel like it’s going by faster, make menial tasks more enjoyable, and it can even be an efficient mood booster. But what about music and productivity at work? There have been some interesting studies that we can look to to see whether or not music is really encouraging us to be productive, or if it’s actually just a distraction.

Music and productivity for repetitive tasks

When it comes to completing tasks that are repetitive and don’t need much active critical thinking or creativity, such as data entry or labeling, music can be a great bolster to productivity. Typically with these kinds of tasks, most of us find them to be dull, tedious, or we can become easily distracted. By listening to enjoyable music, we can reduce outside distractions, be better focused on the task, and therefore be more productive in our work.

Music and productivity in an open floor office

As we discussed with open floor plan office spaces, noise and chatter around us can make for an unproductive environment where we become easily distracted. Luckily, listening to music through headphones can be a very efficient method for reducing these distractions and allowing us better workplace productivity. Listening to music in this way can be beneficial for two reasons: the first, is that music can drown out the outside noise. The second is that with headphones in, colleagues and others around you may be less likely to approach you and interrupt you regarding matters without urgency.

Music and productivity for learning tasks

Music and productivityOne way that music may actually be counterproductive is in the cases of learning tasks. When we are attempting to read or learn something new, it can be difficult to absorb that new knowledge when listening to music. This becomes especially true when listening to music with lyrics, which tends to interfere with our internal voice which may be reciting or repeating information in order to learn or memorize it. In this case, when you are engaged in a learning task, try using a voice reader to recite the material to you while you read it, or watch a video. In this way, the audio may help in the learning process, but is not battling for your attention like music can.

Music with lyrics vs. ambient sounds for productivity

While we each have our own preferences to what kind of music we like to listen to, and maybe even which type of music we feel most productive with, studies have shown that music with lyrics can be less boosting to creativity and productivity than instrumental music. As previously mentioned, music with lyrics can be distracting against our own thoughts, and so when doing tasks such as writing and reading, you may be better off listening to music without words.

Additionally, ambient sounds, or sounds of natural environments around us (a.k.a. white, pink and brown noise) such as the sound of rain, or ocean waves, or even cars driving down a road, can help to increase productivity. These sounds help us keep focus without being distracting, because they often don’t have a rhythm or cadence and no lyrics that can draw our attention away from the tasks in front of us.

When looking to be more productive in the workplace, consider using music as a tool to help you to stay focused. Depending on the right tasks combined with the right sounds, you just might find that music can help you to complete your work efficiently.

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