Bureaucrats and the Beat: Music Greases the Office Engine

Amongst the “Jock Jamz” and “Totally 80s Mixes”, a new crop of curated bops is easing its way into the mainstream; work playlists. Music at the office has always been a matter of divided opinion, but as a new age is dawning, and a melodic work ethic is being examined more closely and practiced more widely.

From the classic perspective, orchestral habits at the office are reviled. Music can erect an audio barrier between the worker and their peers or in dire cases the worker and their clients. It may cut through some coworkers’ preferred silence, causing inter-office friction. Worst of all, in this modern age the devices we listen to music on can provide a portal to a world rife with attractive distractions, effectively demolishing productivity. The first two points have their merits, true, but the last (and arguably the most effective in its implication) may prove to be founded on shaky norms.

When used correctly and with the right amount of restraint, piping in tunes while on the job can actually boost a worker’s performance. Data insists that 90 percent of employees perform better when listening to music, 88 percent produce more accurate work when plugged in and 61 percent rock out at their desks because they believe it makes them happier and more productive. Some mental and physiological benefits that music produces carry over nicely to workplace performance. Healthy listening has been shown to reduce anxiety, aids memory and increase motivation.

As for what music nurtures professional output the most; the answer is varied and highly subjective. However some trends are present. Tried and true genres for concentration include classical, film and videogame scores, nature audio and white noise. Some specific genres will enhance specific skills; for instance, ambient music improves accuracy in data entry in 92 percent of people. Similarly, dance music improves proofreading speed by 20 percent, pop music reduces mistakes by 14 percent and classical music makes the listener more accurate by a factor of 12 percent. Additionally within the genres the songs that have a specific tempo, no lyrics and no emotional significance to the listener yield the best results in terms of aiding efficient output.

So, fret not, unless it’s on the guitar, when you lift your head from your desk to find a sea of headphones. As long as employees have a good attitude about their office habits, a tune or two will bump up what they produce rather than hinder it. 




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