The Merits of Music At Work

A lot people at my workplace, myself included, play music at their desks. Several of us plug in chunky, expensive headphones that keep the music, in our own respective ears. And there are some, who prefer to tune into a playlist or the radio on their cubicle at a relatively low volume. Most of us prefer music at work because it makes work efficient. It’s fun, relaxing, or calming, it puts us in a better mood and perform better. In the MCU movie ‘Doctor Strange’ the first scene with Dr. Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) shows him playing Chuck Mangione’s “Feels So Good” while in the operating theater. It’s true, even surgeons listen to music when you’re under the knife – it helps them increase concentration.

Numerous studies have shown that music has a profound impact on our brains and our bodies. We don’t just put music when we find ourselves losing focus. Sometimes we do it because it turns a bad-day into a relatively tolerable one. While some of us may whole-heartedly support music at work, there are some who’re entirely against this idea. With that in mind, here’s a little something-


Music is helpful when your hands are six inches deep in a task that is defined and repetitive. In a series of experiments exploring the relationship between playing background music during the performance of a repetitive task by assembly line workers, it was found that music helps perform such tasks with efficiency. Moreover, the assembly line workers showed signs of increased efficiency and happiness while listening to music at work. As a matter of fact, it’s not the music, but the improved mood from listening to good music that brings the surge in productivity.

Music as an escape

In noisy workplace, especially when it’s an open office plan, it becomes difficult to increase creativity and productivity into your work. If there is no physical escape, such as a private room or a conference room, the best thing you can do, is put on a pair of headphones. In a study about how music improves productivity, it was found that individuals who listened to music completed their tasks quickly and came up with better ideas and suggestion than those who didn’t.

Get The Creative Juices Flowing

Studies have shown that even a moderate music level can get the creative juices flowing. On the other hand, loud music (or, noise) can make it incredibly difficult to focus on what you’re doing at the moment. Even ambient music or natural sounds, like waves on a beach or the sound of rain can improve one’s ability to concentrate.


Music with lyrics can be extremely beneficial while performing physical tasks. On the other hand, it can be destructive if you’re performing extremely cognitive, intensive tasks. A series of studies show that any kind of “intelligible” chatter – makes for a distracting environment. Shifting focus to what you’re hearing is the reason why we consider a noisy office as the most distracting element. If you’re performing language tasks such as writing, playing music with lyrics is similar to holding a conversation with someone sitting next to you. On the other hand, music with lyrics helps bring output, according to a study involving software developers.


A lot of companies often play music at work to increase employee productivity. Having previously worked in a non-restrictive company that played music aloud, here’s a number of problems I’ve witnessed-

It’s almost impossible to settle for a genre that harmonizes with the music tastes of every employee. Moreover, if you’re playing emotionally engaging music, it can be a little distracting, maybe even irritating for some people. Some will prefer classic rock, hip-hip, or boy bands, on the other hand, others will be partial to jazz. If you’re working with a multigenerational workforce, you never know what kind of music may tick someone. The key here is to stick to safe, soft music that doesn’t divert the focus of your employees. Give it all a go – jazz, blues, indie rock, or even a symphonic piece. But, remember, it needs to be unobtrusive  that doesn’t zap anybody’s focus from their work.

Priyansha Mistry
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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