Since we first sang in the fields, music has been a part of the workplace – and it remains the case. Today, 85% of workers say they enjoy listening to music while they work and 71% believe it improves their productivity.1 And most employers seem to agree with this conclusion.2
But can music actually increase performance? There is some good brain-science to suggest it can.
Listening to music can do wonderful things to our minds, which may aid productivity. It can:
From the ‘Mozart effect’, (which suggests listening to the composer’s music can temporarily raise our IQ) to the activation theory (which argues music can help lift activity in our brains to an optimal level for performing tasks), the impact of music on performance has been poked and prodded by researchers for decades, producing often conflicting results.6
What researchers believe today is music can have a positive effect on workplace performance, but that impact seems to be indirect, and mediated by mood, emotion, personality and context.7
So the right music for you is probably the music you enjoy the most and feel like listening to (with a few caveats that we’ll discuss in a minute).
"There are probably some features in music that make you feel a certain way, but it's your experience with it that is even more important," says Neuroradiologist Jonathan Burdette M.D.8
Sometimes we all find music distracting, even our favourite tunes. Dr Teresa Lesiuk of Miami University suggests we can work out when music helps and hinders our performance at work by considering five factors9:
Simply put, what’s best for your team and your workplace will depend on each individual and their context de jour.