Music Productivity at Work: What's the Verdict?

Updated: Apr 19


Woman and man working

Should you listen to music while you work?

This article aims to answer the question of whether music affects your productivity at work.


If you're currently playing music while working you are not alone. According to research, 61% of workers report listening to music while working.


But is it effective? Should you listen to music while completing all types of assignments? Are there different types of music you should listen to while working? Do music and productivity go hand in hand?


This article presents how music:

  • Affects your brain

  • Can positively impact productivity

  • Can harm productivity

  • Is to be listened to or not depending on your assignment

Read our post and learn how to choose the right playlist for productive workdays!


How does music affect your brain?

Brain scans on screens

According to research by the John Hopkins medicine research facility, listening to music can have a wide range of benefits for your brain.

In their studies music was found to:

  • Decrease stress and anxiety

  • Reduce pain

  • Improve sleep quality

  • Positively impact mood

  • Increase mental alertness and memory

Music therapy is a thing!


The role of dopamine

Woman laughing

Scientific studies have shown that listening to music, especially if it is a song you love, also triggers the reward centers in our brain.


These reward centers in our brains are responsible for the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. The same chemical is released when you work out, have sex, eat your favorite food, or get many likes on your new Instagram post.


This chemical plays a very important role in the pleasure we feel. As importantly, it's what makes humans capable of thinking and planning. Why? Because looking forward to a dopamine hit is what makes us strive, focus and develop an interest in certain things.


Anyway, back to music. Listening to music you love releases dopamine, and dopamine makes you happy and helps you focus, in a nutshell. Music makes us happy!


Don't we love science?


How does music impact productivity?

Woman working on computers

So we know music can help you feel better and has a whole host of other benefits. But can it help you increase your productivity at work?


Well, yes and no.


The impact of listening to music while working depends on the nature of your work. If you work in a highly repetitive environment doing non mentally challenging tasks music may help improve productivity for example. However, if you are doing complex work or trying to learn new information it may be better to work in silence, without any noise at all.


Disclaimer: If the music is so good that it is distracting you from your work and you are spending your day dancing and singing, then it is definitely not increasing productivity. It does depend on the individual.


Music and productivity: interesting numbers

Statistics sheet

A few numbers about music and productivity

According to a great infographic developed by WebFX:

  • 61% of people listen to music in the workplace to be happier and more productive in their job

  • 9 out of 10 workers are more productive when listening to music

  • 88% of people perform in a more accurate way when listening to music

A few numbers about music and business

The findings of researchers presented by WebFX also show that business owners believe music has the potential to boost employees and help them perform better.

Here are a few more interesting numbers related to music in the workplace:

  • 77% of SME company owners believe music increases employee morale

  • 65% believe it boosts employee productivity

  • 40% of company owners believe music increases sales

Well, if anything, these numbers show music's potential of increasing employees' productivity and thus business performance. If you're a business owner reading this, you might want to invest in a sound system for your workplace!


In which cases does music boost productivity?

Man working on laptop

Music could help for certain workplace tasks, particularly data entry and proofreading assignments for example.


In fact, WebFX's infographic shows:

  • Ambient music improves data entry accuracy for 92% of employees

  • 58% of employees completed information entry tasks faster when listening to popular music or upbeat sounds

  • Dance music helps workers proofread 20% faster

When can music be detrimental to productivity?

Employee at the office

Music can also harm productivity if listened to during tasks requiring you to learn, assimilate knowledge and retain information.


This especially applies to music with lyrics and a fast tempo, which requires your brain to process auditory data, potentially interfering with the information you need to retain for your job assignment.


When to opt for music without lyrics

  • You're completing an assignment requiring learning

  • Your work requires deep concentration

  • You've already listened to a substantial amount of new music during the day: too much dopamine may affect your ability to focus!

In sum, choose the right time to listen to music so it doesn't distract you! Science says so.


5 tips to prevent music from harming your productivity

Student at the library

1. Keep the sound down

No matter what assignment you are completing, listening to music at a high level might harm your concentration. In addition, as previously stated, loud music might lead to an extra release of our famous happiness neurotransmitter, of which a too substantial amount can harm your focus.


Do your concentration and eardrums a favor and keep your music at a low level when you work. To improve your concentration and productivity it is key that the music remains as background noise.


2. Stick to titles you know

Listening to a song you are already familiar with requires less brainpower than new exciting ones. Stick to tunes you've been listening to for a while, especially if the task you are completing requires deep focus.


In addition (and again), new exciting sounds might trigger another reward hormone release and compromise your ability to concentrate. Stick to what's familiar!


3. Play tunes without lyrics

Tunes with no or few lyrics are less likely to overload your brain. This is why instrumental and classical music is very popular amongst students. Funny how different musical genres can create a positive impact, eh?


Indeed, lyrics may decrease productivity. For instance, the fast-paced Rap and Hip-Hop genres may not be the wisest choice if you need to retain information.Want to boost your performance for tasks requiring a high level of concentration? Play classical and instrumental musical genres!


4. Listen to songs that will create a positive mood

Despite all the advice given above, it's of crucial importance you play sounds that put you in a good mood. If you're happy, it's very likely you'll be more motivated, positive, and productive. We're still after dopamine after all! If you need that beat, go for it.


This may be especially important if you are doing repetitive tasks. If your office is full of employees doing repetitive tasks, music can help increase cognitive performance.


5. Switch it up

First of all, take good note of which musical genre you should be listening to according to the job you are completing. There is so much more than upbeat pop music with lyrics!

Consider exploring different types of music:

  • Jazz

  • Classical music

  • Nature sounds

  • Alpha waves

Science has shown that nature sounds and white noise may also be beneficial in improving brain function. So if music is too distracting use these to boost your performance.


Playlists you might fancy

Student

1. Nature Sounds

As previously mentioned, nature sounds may help increase productivity greatly. These can be especially great as background music. Johnnie Lawson is quite notorious for nature sound playlists on Youtube.


2. LoFi Girl

Originally created as a Youtube channel, LoFi Girl is now available on all streaming platforms. With over 10. 4 million YouTube subscribers, LoFi Girl makes lyric-free playlists with chill lofi tunes that are perfect for listening to while at work.


3. Cover Army

Want the proven benefit of listening to calming classical while listening to music you know? Cover Army's channel consists of expert violinists covering well-known recent pop songs. These songs are great for when you really need to focus when in the workplace.


4. StudyMD

StudyMD is hands down our favorite work and study playlist. The channel offers many playlists with different types of musical genres, including Jazz, LoFi, and nature sounds. The best part? Almost all videos use the Pomodoro technique a popular time management technique notorious for increasing productivity.


The verdict on listening to music at work

Court room ruling

Does listening to music at the office increase productivity? Like very often, the answer is it depends. But overall, yes, listen to music at work.


Yes, when?

On one hand, music can boost your productivity if the assignment is simple and doesn't require assimilating knowledge (filling an Excel sheet or formatting a document for example).


No, when?

On the other hand, if your assignment requires you to learn, analyze and assimilate content (drafting a competitor analysis or crafting a strategic marketing plan for example), music might distract you and harm your ability to concentrate and thus perform.


Implications for employees and business owners

Office meeting

That being said, the music choice is personal. Our advice would be to create a list of songs for assignments requiring a deep focus and another list for more superficial assignments.


Overall, for most types of modern work tasks, it is a good idea to play music, either on a speaker at the office or with headphones. Research shows that music and productivity can go hand in hand in the business environment.


Playing music in the office can be beneficial for employees, business owners and thus business performance.

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