How can music boost your performance? The science behind the benefits of music in the workplace.

161110_tj_sop_report_blogListening to music in the workplace can positively boost your performance. What’s more, the benefits are multiple:

  • Helping to improve mood
  • Preventing daydreaming and distractions from work
  • Providing company when the office environment is too quiet

In fact, data from The Sound of Productivity Report reveals that 79% of people would benefit from listening to music at work. However, over one third (38%) are not allowed to (though many would benefit from it).

While the research headlines speak for themselves, it’s the science behind the stats that can offer a real insight into the benefits of music in the workplace. To explain why this is important, we need to step into a psychologist’s shoes[1] to understand the relationship between mental stimulation (or arousal, as psychologists call it) and performance.

The ‘Science’ Bit Explained

When people become stimulated or aroused by the work they are doing, their performance increases – but only to a point. If they become over stimulated their performance will decline.

Much depends on what mood the person is already in, and what they are doing when listening to the music. Ultimately, it’s clear from the research that people balance their internal needs and motivation to listen to music with what’s expected from them while they’re ‘on the job.’ This ‘responsible listening’ model set the framework for the research.

Extroverts vs Introverts

Of course, we are all individuals and different personality types respond to different levels of stimulation[2]. Extroverts, for example, require much more arousal to reach their performance peak, whereas introverts need a lot less. This is why two people can have very different reactions to the same music at work, and why there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to introducing music to the workplace.

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It takes all types

In fact, it’s evident that there are real differences in the role of music in the workplace according to sector and job type. To illustrate, Computer Programmers are often likely to have challenging workloads as well as being more introverted. This means they are more vulnerable to being easily disrupted, especially when working in an open-space. In cases like this, listening to music can be a positive way to control the sound environment and reduce interruptions.

Indeed the research showed overwhelmingly that people working in open-spaces would benefit more from music compared with people working on their own -underlining the important role music plays in blocking out noise to aid concentration.

Music and well-being

Over half the people in this study use music to change their mood or to mirror their emotions. In other words, listening to music helps boost their personal well-being. It’s a well know fact that well-being at work is good for work performance. The science behind this is that even mild positive emotions have the ability to increase what we can recall in our minds. In other words, – it can help to stimulate new thoughts and memories. The end result can lead to increased creativity[3].

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The future of Sound Productivity

What’s clear from the research is that encouraging music in the workplace can help to improve well-being and increase satisfaction and productivity. However, an environment where people have a greater level of control over when and which music they listen to, can result in experiences and outcomes which are more positive.

Enjoyed as a private activity, music in offices can be seen as a perk; a positive route to personal happiness and well-being. What’s more, it’s a clever way to help manage work environments and minimise interruptions; a cost effective way to combat stress; and a positive technique for encouraging self care.

Looking to the future, the Sound of Productivity is seemingly a step towards helping people to regulate their personal well-being in a public space. Which should be music to employers’ ears.

Article written by  Dr. 


[1] Yerkes, R. M., & Dodson, J. D. (1908). The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation. Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18, 459-482.

[2] Eysenck, H. J. (1967). The biological basis of personality. Springfield, IL: Thomas.

[3] Isen, A. M. (1999). Positive affect. In T. Dalgleish, & Power, M. (Ed.), Handbook of cognition and emotion (pp. 521-539). Chicester, England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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