Lighter side: Let music be the food of productivity

by Chloe Taylor24 Oct 2014
This may come as music to your staff's ear, but new research has revealed there are multiple benefits to listening to music at work.

Biologically, melodious sounds encourage dopamine to be released into the ‘reward’ area of the brain.

This is the also the affect of eating delicacies or looking at something appealing, according to Dr Amit Sood, a physician of integrative medicine with the Mayo Clinic.

Music prevents the mind from drifting away from the present moment.

“We know that a wandering mind is unhappy,” he said. “Most of that time, we are focussing on the imperfections of life.”

Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the University of Miami’s music therapy program, said that music “breaks you out of just thinking one way". 

Lesiuk’s research focussed on music’s effect on workplace performance. In a study with IT specialists, results showed that those who listened to music worked more quickly and creatively due to the music improving their mood.

“When you’re stressed, you might make a decision more hastily; you have a very narrow focus of attention,” she said. “When you’re in a positive mood, you’re able to take in more options.”

A new study has shown that 88% of workers produce their most accurate work when listening to music.

Different genres are suggested to be beneficial for differing requirements – classical music improves accuracy and mathematical skills, while pop music speeds up data entry task completion.   

Dance music has a positive impact on proof-reading, the research showed, increasing participants’ speed by 20% compared to tests conducted without music.

Dance music also increased the spell-checking pass rate from 68% to 75%.

Focus@will, an online service and mobile app, has utilised the positive affect of music on productivity to provide “music optimized to boost your concentration and focus.”

The site claims that its use of ‘neuroscience-based music channels’ boost attention span by up to 400%, by helping people to “effortlessly zone out distractions.”

According to its creators, people could be listening to the ‘wrong music’, because lyrics – designed to form an emotional connection with the listener – are a distraction.

Focus@will has ‘attention amplifying’ music choices, designed to engage the brain’s limbic system.

UK-based Mindlab International’s research suggests that silent offices are likely to be the least productive – an experiment the lab conducted showed a positive correlation between music and productivity.

“Overall, it showed that when listening to music, 90% of people performed better,” said Dr David Lewis, chairman of Mindlab International.

“Music is an incredibly powerful management tool in increasing the efficiency of a workforce. It can help to enhance output and even boost a company’s bottom line.”

Here's our top 5 songs for the office:

1: 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton
2: Pearl's a Singer by Elkie Brooks
3: Happy by Pharrell Williams
4: Chain Gang by Sam Cooke
5: Let's Work by Mick Jagger

What songs do you play in the office? Let us know below.


  • by Dodie Gale 27/10/2014 12:56:54 AM

    I can't believe you are treating this as proper research. This "study" of 26 participants was commissioned by the two main music licensing agencies - Performing Right Society (PRS) and Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL). They have a vested interest in trying to persuade businesses to play music at work so that they can collect millions of pounds in licence revenue. Just this week there was a report from Stanford University showing that 85% of teenagers perform simple tasks less well when distracted by music. This corroborates a study from Cardiff University in 2010 which showed that listening to music can interfere with short-term memory performance regardless of whether or not we like the music being played.

  • by Amanda Rochford 28/10/2014 10:28:51 AM

    Spot on Dodie. As an introvert I find music (even quiet music) a total distraction and having it played around the office would just make it so much more difficult for me to concentrate and produce work. There is already too much sensory input (for me) in the workplace with this open plan nonsense.

  • by Renee_26 9/04/2015 11:12:19 AM

    I'm a cleaner, I work in a nursing home, now me listening to music while I work isn't a distraction. In fact it helps me stay focused on the tasks at hand and helps keep me in a better mood when things go wrong. I also find that it helps me stay at a steady pace so I can clean the entire nursing home in only 5hrs. I'm not talking about having music blearing so loud I can't hear people talking to me or asking questions when they walk by, nice easy listening is sometime what certain people need.

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