Music in the Workplace: Can it Help Productivity, or Is it Treble?

Music in the Workplace

Do your employees like to listen to music while they work? For many, engagement, morale, and overall productivity increase through listening to music. But, is music in the workplace actually beneficial to your business’s growth? To find out, pay attention to current research, laws on playing music in the workplace, and other business policies.

Music in the workplace

There are many ways that music can be enjoyed in your small business. Maybe you play music through speakers so everyone can listen. Or, you might let employees listen to music through their headphones.

Music in the workplace is encouraged by many business owners. But, some businesses also choose to regulate or ban it while at work.

Music and productivity: Pros and cons

People listen to music for a variety of reasons. In many cases, listening to music in the workplace can help employees:

  • Focus on work
  • Absorb information
  • Stimulate creativity
  • Drown out co-workers
  • Break up mundane tasks
  • Boost morale

Listening to music in the workplace can be great for many employees. But, it can also hinder productivity. Music can be harmful because:

  • Employees might not hear customers
  • Employees might not hear co-workers trying to get their attention
  • An employee’s music might bother another worker
  • Employees could get distracted

As you can see, there are both pros and cons to listening to music in the workplace. These advantages and disadvantages can depend on the industry, employee’s position, and the employee’s work habits.

What the research shows

So, can music make employees more productive? Take a look at what the research found on music and productivity in the workplace.

According to one study, 73% of warehouse workers said they were more productive when there was background music playing. And, 65% of businesses thought music made them more productive.

Another study reported in The Telegraph found that 88% of workers doing data-entry, solving math problems, and proofreading produced more accurate work and 81% worked faster when listening to music.

Music had a positive impact on the majority of workers. Instead of harming their productivity, music helped them become more productive.

According to Dr. Sood at the Mayo Clinic, 15 – 30 minutes of listening to music can help someone regain concentration.

Concentration is an important part of many business positions. Employees need focus to accomplish tasks. But, there are times when an employee might lack focus, especially toward the end of the workday.

Recharging with music might be the boost many employees need to re-engage with their work. And, there are many advantages of employee engagement, like increased profits.

How types of music influence productivity

Music with lyrics might hinder productivity more than help it. One study by Cambridge Sound Management found that speech was the worst distraction to employees. Forty-eight percent of participants were bothered by speech, and employees wasted 21.5 minutes per day as a result.

Music genres without lyrics might boost productivity more than music with speech. Here are some types of music that might help employees stay focused:

  • Classical
  • Instrumental
  • Movie/tv scores
  • Video game soundtracks
  • Nature
  • White noise

Basically, music without lyrics is thought to be best for people to focus. But for some people, music like rock, hip-hop, jazz, alternative, etc. can be beneficial.

Many times, the music that will help an employee be the most productive depends on what they’re doing. Is your employee doing physical labor or sitting at a desk doing research? Different jobs might require different genres.

According to The Telegraph study, employees with different positions increased their productivity depending on the types of music they listened to. The percentages show the difference between listening to music as opposed to not listening to any music:

  • Classical music: Workers doing math problems improved their accuracy by 12%
  • Pop music: Data-entry workers worked 58% faster while listening to pop music
  • Dance music: Workers increased their proofreading speed by 20%

And, no two people are the same. Employees with lots of energy might want to channel it into upbeat music to help them concentrate. Employees have different preferences, and they (most likely) know what types of music help them streamline operations.

If you play music through speakers, make sure it is OK with your employees. And if your customers can hear the music, you need to make sure it is appropriate. Stay away from offensive or distracting music.

Music in the Workplace

Music and workplace policies

You can create a music in the workplace policy. This can help you avoid some of the disadvantages that come with listening to music at work.

You should include your policy in your employee handbook so that your workers understand your rules on music in the office.

You might not allow certain positions to listen to music. Employees who directly deal with customers or work closely with other employees might be restricted from listening to music. If a customer or co-worker has a question for an employee listening to music, trying to get their attention could get frustrating.

Maybe you have rules on how employees can listen to music. You might allow music but not allow streaming music. If employees use an app or website to listen to music, that is streaming. If the music is downloaded onto their devices, that is not streaming.

Also, employees should be courteous when listening to music. They shouldn’t sing with the music, as this could be distracting for co-workers. And, the music shouldn’t be so loud that the employee can’t hear anything else.

Headphones and safety

Wearing headphones could be dangerous in certain industries, like construction. Depending on your business, you might be required to restrict listening to music so your employees are safe.

OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulates safety in the workplace. One of OSHA’s rules is that music player headphones don’t count as hearing protection. Because noise in construction can be loud and damaging, employers are encouraged to provide hearing protection to their workers.

If the work your business does is dangerous or has the potential to result in injury, your workers should stay away from having headphones. Having music blasting in their ears can result in the employee not being aware of their surroundings.

For example, you have an employee operating heavy machinery and listening to music in his headphones. A problem comes up, and a co-worker tries to get their attention. Because of the music, the worker operating the machinery can’t hear. Avoid issues like this by regulating listening to music.

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