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Music while you work?

Posted on 10/09/2011 by Emma Dadswell

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We came across an interesting piece of research in the Independent, which revealed that 90% of UK surgeons listen to music during operations. Half of these prefer up-tempo rock to any other style and 17% cited pop music as their genre of choice, but interestingly, only 11% operate to classical music.

When asked why they played music the majority of respondents cited creating a harmonious and calm atmosphere as a reason, while a third put it down to preventing boredom. Tellingly, none of the surgeons mentioned concentration as a factor in their music choices.

So, does music make employees more productive in the workplace? Or is it a distraction?

First, there is the issue of concentration. While it’s commonly accepted that classical music is conducive to good focus, it is also accepted that it’s not to everyone’s taste. Open-plan offices are increasingly the norm, and it can be extremely difficult to negotiate a working soundtrack that pleases everyone. While one person could find a particular genre stimulating and helpful, another may find it a complete distraction which affects their performance.

Here are our tips for managing music in the workplace:

  1. Consider the practicalities. Offices playing music over a sound system, as opposed to through headphones, need to obtain a PRS for music. Find out more about this here.
  2. Have a trial. If you’re introducing music to the workplace for the first time, it might be difficult for some employees to adjust. If there is a considerable dissenting voice, it may not be right for your office.
  3. Keep the volume low. In some environments where music is played, employees can find themselves feeling more like they’re in a nightclub than at work. Make sure it’s definitely in the background.
  4. Try to find a consensus. Not everybody likes the same thing – and not everyone can get their way, but by finding a genre of music that doesn’t bother anyone means that at least nobody will be put off their work.
  5. Change it around. Some people find hearing the same music on a loop very stressful. Put on a new playlist every few days so that people don’t get ground down by monotony.

Do you listen to music at work? Do you find it distracting or does it help you focus? Does it help to improve the atmosphere at work? We want to hear what you think!