Why You Should Listen to Music at Work


CaptureIf you’re reading this now, chances are you’re wearing headphones. Maybe you’re listening to some mellow jazz music, or Beyoncé’s Lemonade (which you should definitely check out if you haven’t). Either way, music is a must when you take the subway to work every morning or want to relax at home in the evening. But what about at work?

Studies have shown that music actually improves employee morale and motivation. In fact, 81% of people work faster and 88% produce better results when listening to music. People who listen to music are more motivated, more willing to socialize, read, write, and count quicker, and are overall happier. So what kind of music will make you more efficient and productive?

Lyric-less Music

The general consensus is that songs without lyrics are most beneficial to your productivity. Apparently, it’s not the noise of your co-workers chatting that causes you to be distracted, but it’s the words that they’re saying. This study from Cambridge Sound Management found that hearing intelligible words shifts your attention from work to trying to decipher what someone else is saying. It makes sense. I mean, how much work could you actually get done while singing along to T-Swift’s latest breakup song?

Classical Music

Classical music is defined by its complex musical structure. That’s why your parents played Mozart and Beethoven in the nursery when you were a baby. They were trying to make your smarter. Well, turns out there’s no shortcut to intelligence. The whole “Mozart Effect” in fact does not have much scientific evidence supporting it.

But, that doesn’t mean classical tunes can’t help you outside of the womb. Researchers believe that the complexity of classical music primes the brain to solve spatial problems more quickly. Baroque-period tunes also enhance certain genes in our brains that are involved with dopamine secretion (the “feel good hormone”), and “transport synaptic function, learning and memory.” In layman’s terms, listening to classical music can make you feel good and can improve your learning and memory capacities. #winning.

The good thing about classical music being a popular backdrop in the home and at the office, is that it’s so readily available on the Internet. Try out this Baroque station on Pandora or this Perfect Concentration playlist on Spotify.

Ambient Electronica / Chillout

Don’t get us wrong – this is different from the crazy, hardcore EDM tunes that you hear at clubs or parties. These genres are characterized by a more mellow style and mid-tempo beats, much easier to listen.  You have popular artists like Tycho and AphexTwin, but you can find less mainstream artists here. Most of these producers attempt to create soundscapes that focus on certain melodies that build on top of each other.

In fact, most engineers in Silicon Valley listen to trance, house, or other electronica subgenres when they work. Snapchat engineer Michael Heyeck explains that  “EDM/Trance just goes on and on and on, so it’s good for getting into a coding groove.” This Spotify coder created his own playlist — called ∞ Every Day I’m Nerdin” — and it’s become a cult hit with his fellow developers. Check it out — maybe it’ll get you into the zone at work!

Ambient Noise

Sometimes, you need a break from loud bass or high vocals. But for most people, the sound of silence can be stifling. In that case, why not try listening to some ambient noise in the background? Research has shown that those exposed to a moderate level of ambient noise significantly out-performed others. The study reports that “getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas.” That’s why so many people set up in coffee shops or cafes when they need to do work. Or maybe it’s because of the free Wi-fi.

For those that want to bring that coffee shop productivity to your cubicle, check out these cool sites:

  • Coffitivy — A free online app that plays continuous loops of coffee shop environment. Pick and choose from streams like a Lunchtime Lounge or Morning Murmur.
  • ASoftMurmur — All of the possible background noises — fire, water, wind, birds, crickets, etc — are here in one place. You can mix and match the volume levels of each to create the perfect background sound for you.
  • myNoise — This is your go-to spot for listening to grey noise. The site offers a bunch of different synthetic noise generators as well as brainwaves or industrial noises.
  • Brian Eno’s Music for Airports — This is another popular pick by fans of ambient music. Created in 1978 literally for passengers waiting in airports to relax and avoid boredom, it’s a classic that you shouldn’t miss out on.

Music You Enjoy

Lyrics or not, classical or country, research has shown that as long as you enjoy the music you listen to, your productivity level will increase. This University of Miami study found that participants who listened to music they liked actually completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas. It’s because listening to music you enjoy generally improves your mood, and happier people work better. Duh.

So think twice about banning headphones in the office because you never know, listening to music might actually get you better results. If none of these genres are to your taste, don’t worry! Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, and in the end, whatever gets you in the zone is really what matters 🙂