Whistle While You Work: the Benefits of Listening to Music at the Office

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DJHistory has shown us that people have used work songs  to boost their motivation and aid productivity for centuries. We may have replaced these simple folks songs with personalized Internet playlists, but the impact remains the same.

“Melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain,” Dr. Amit Sood, a physician at the Mayo Clinic, told the New York Times. The pleasure caused by listening to music can increase one’s mood resulting, in higher productivity and lower stress levels.

Fist-Pumping Productivity

Your favorite song just came on Pandora and you haven’t heard a commercial for at least ten minutes. You dial up the volume on your headphones and ever-so-slightly start to oscillate with the rhythm. You zip through your task with added creativity and motivation. BOOM! Thanks Elton John!

Researchers found a 14 percent increase in productivity  for workers performing simple clerical work when listening to music and a 6.3 percent increase in productivity  for workers performing all types of work. Performing a task that you have done hundreds of times can become more enjoyable when accompanied by your choice playlist.

Turn Down for What?

As it turns out, listening to music is not conducive to performing high-level cognitive tasks like reading a comprehensive report on a difficult subject or trying to learn something new. Reading comprehension and memorization especially suffer: the lyrics fill up your brain, leaving no room for you to think!

If engaging in high-level strategic tasks or perusing complicated material, turn down the volume to clear your mind and open up space for your thoughts. Research participants had a much more difficult time recalling a complex task when they had listened to music, and too much noise when you’re trying to get your creative juices flowing can cause the very mental block you want to avoid.

“I’m Sorry, but Your Death Metal Is Distracting”

Open offices can mean too much noise for some. There’s nothing worse than trying to work in peace while Johnny Headbanger cranks his music as high as he possibly can. He is wearing headphones and you’re at sitting five feet away, but the lyrics are clear as day. Johnny is getting his work done, but you are distracted!

Workplace distractions cost U.S. businesses $10,375 per employee each year. Unwanted tunes can account for some of that distraction. Hopefully, you have some noise-canceling headphones nearby to help you escape from your coworkers and retreat into your own world. Be conscientious, people!

Grab a Pair

Comfy headphones and the perfect playlist can turn an afternoon slump into a super-productive power hour. Know when to crank your music and when to turn it down. Give your brain the space it needs to learn when dealing with high-level tasks and a shot of dopamine when it’s running through the routine. Try not to invade your coworkers’ space by blaring your own tunes, but as for the moving and a-grooving? Allez-y.

Added bonus: Check out this infographic to find out which genre of music is best for your job.

By Kerry Pivovar