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Can Music Boost Your Productivity at Work?

Image of a computer user with headphones on in front of a window showing the setting sun.

At some point or another, we’ve all put on some tunes at work to help the day go by. The constant noise of clacking keyboards can leave you feeling dull and drained. You might feel more refreshed or energised after throwing on your headphones, and it’s been proven that music does, in fact, have direct ties to increasing productivity and the overall mood of workers in office spaces. According to an experiment led by MindLab International, 90% of participants produced more accurate work while listening to music, while 81% of those participants worked at a faster pace. 61% of them also claimed that listening to music at work often leaves them feeling happier and more productive. It seems obvious that music helps with productivity, but let’s take a closer look as to why.

Specific genres of music are found to be beneficial in certain situations. Listeners of pop music found a 14% decrease in errors and an increased speed of 58% while completing data entry tasks, according to Why is this the case? Listening to music releases dopamine, the chemical responsible for pleasure, into the brain which can give us a sense of euphoria and leave us feeling energised. Since pop music is often upbeat and catchy, and is typically always composed in a major key, it takes on a bright and exciting sound that does a good job of facilitating the release of dopamine and helps improve our mood. On the other hand, tasks that require a degree of creativity, or focus to learn new information are best assisted by other genres. According to WebFX, ambient music is exceptional for inspiring creativity. Moderate levels of background noise like soundscapes improves focus and can help people generate new ideas without being too overpowering, as too much ambient noise can be distracting and detrimental.

Understanding how certain genres of music can impact our cognitive abilities and mood can help clarify how best to utilise these benefits. To power through mundane tasks, choose upbeat music (songs with a fast tempo) to keep you energised and efficient. Classical music has been found to improve employees’ accuracy when completing tasks by 12%, according to Fast Company, whereas music with large amounts of lyrical content might captivate a large part of your attention and make it harder to retain new information. As a result, it’s recommended that those in roles that requiring linguistic processing, such as translators, copy writers and proof readers, refrain from listening to music with lyrics to avoid the brain processing the additional information of the words to the song. Loud office spaces can also impede employees’ abilities to effectively finish their work.

Listening to music can do more than just increase productivity, including reducing stress and anxiety, improving memory and even provide a boost of motivation. Listening to soothing music, especially songs with slow and steady rhythmic beats, has been found to reduce the levels of cortisol in the body, which is responsible for regulating stress through controlling several body functions such as heart rate and muscle tension. Cortisol also has been found to help with memory formulation, since high stress levels have been found to impair cellular communication in the brain. Therefore, lower amounts of cortisol in the body can relieve anxiety and leave you feeling more relaxed.

Music has been found to help in a variety of different situations in the workplace. If utilised in the correct situations, it can help boost productivity, inspire creativity and even alleviate physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. Next time you’re looking for a little boost of energy, try reaching for your headphones instead of your coffee - you might be surprised by the results.


Featured image credit: Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash


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