music at work

Listening to music at work helps you with inspiration, concentration, positive distraction, stress relief and managing your personal space. So why doesn't everyone do it?

We all fear our clients or bosses walking into our office and catching us singing to our favorite tunes. But why? I have located the answer and, as we suspected, it is a little irrational (like most of my other fears). With the help of a study by Haake (2011), we can now focus on the benefits of listening to music at work and quash our fear of getting caught in the act: the act of being focused and getting our work done with our headphones on and music sharpening our concentration.

Why You Listen to Music at Work and What Are You Doing While You Listen?

I get picked on for smiling too much and wearing my colorful Beats headphones at work. My boss will come storming into my office without a knock. "I was wondering if I would get that numbers for last quarter before the end of the week," he asks. "Already done. I'll get the report from the printer and bring them to you office now." Let's just say he is frequently surprised at how quick I get my tasks done.

I can do a five-day project in three days with music to keep my mind from wandering off. Without music, I get bored and distracted. My once tedious data entry task for the accounting department sped by because I was listening to upbeat music that almost fueled me as I poured over hundreds of Excel sheets. My boss was impressed. I felt really good about my week. And it was only 11AM on Thursday! Haake (2011) while she was studying at the University of Sheffield in the said that music performs many functions that help you work like "stimulation from boring and tiresome tasks (both mentally in terms of concentration and physically in terms of bodily energy), creation of a different atmosphere, reminding them of leisure activities and experiences, providing a topic of conversation and identity forming, continuous development of music and culture preferences, and nostalgia."

It all sounds good to me. However, listening to music all day at work still doesn't feel right (I feel guilty like I am doing something wrong, but why do I feel this way?).

What Do Other Employees Think About Music at Work

After studying almost 300 employees that listen to music at work, Haake (2011) interviewed people like us that listened to music at work for one reason or another. Their answers were interesting, such as:

  1. "Lets me think, allows me to chill and unwind, if it’s a punky song I can imagine all my stresses being screamed out with the song even if I’m not screaming along with it."
  2. "I listen to the music during work breaks because it transcends the workplace and acts as a form of escapism (I sometimes go to the gym at lunchtime which has a similar effect but lacks the spiritual dimension)."
  3. "If music was not my distraction, then something else would be, i.e., something unproductive such as fiddling with papers or gazing out of the window."
  4. "They were worried that music would display an unprofessional image ... and be considered a little bit rude towards clients" (Haake, 2011, pp. 117-120).

Bingo! That's it: music at work could contradict a professional image and symbolize a lack of care towards customers and clients. That's what I am afraid of too.

Balance Individual Preferences and Work Needs for Ultimate Productivity

Whether it is uncertainty about work performance or concern about distracting your co-workers or hurting your image, listening to music at work can help get you through the tedious tasks and assist you in being more creative and stimulated on the job. Listening to music can be great for concentration. Be discrete about listening to music at work and nobody will ask. But they will notice you're more productive and happier with your job.

We designed SndControl to avoid distractions and to let you be discrete at work while you enjoy your favorite tunes. Let us know by commenting below or emailing me at clay@sndcontrol.com

See Haake, A. B. (2011). Individual music listening in workplace settings: An exploratory survey of offices in the UK. Musicae Scientiae, 15(1), 107-129.