Is Office Music Helpful or Counterproductive?

Is music helpful or harmful in a business environment?

Many workers reach for their earphones as soon as they come in to work. They like to listen to music in order to break up monotony and to make their days more pleasant. Before long, however, the music takes over.?

One idea behind music in the office is that it masks background noise, allowing workers to better focus on their tasks. Another is that it adds pizzazz and energy to an otherwise mundane routine. But what happens when the music becomes too energetic and turns into a distraction that prevents employees from fully focusing? Whether office music is helpful or counterproductive depends in part on the type of music and the work conditions.

Helpful: Pop music can be your best friend if you need something to help you get through data entry, email sorting or other repetitive work.

Counterproductive: Music with lyrics can be your enemy if you’re writing a report or brainstorming an email. This is because the music is using the language center of your brain, leaving precious little space for those other language-based tasks. In such cases, opt for instrumental tunes.

Counterproductive: When you’re learning new information, listening to music is one of the most counterproductive things you can do. You’ll need to marshal all of your focus to learn, and you can’t do that when your brain is otherwise engaged.

Helpful: If you’re going over something that’s old hat to you, then listening to music can help your margin of error.

However, even situations in which music is helpful are liable to turn counterproductive if you listen to tunes that are new to you. That new music gobbles up space that your brain would otherwise devote to work. So, try not to deviate from a list of trusted favorites while you’re working. Stick to a mix of classical music, instrumental music, and pop lyrics.