First of all, let’s make a clear distinction: there are 2 types of situations.
- You work in an office with other people and you are not in control of the music genre and level.
- You work (or study) by yourself, and you are in complete control of the music.
Music in an office environment is usually there not to cheer up the employees, but to help rising the noise floor.
Music At The Office
Imagine. A call centre. 50 employees at the phone, simultaneously. Music will even up the background music, so that when one employee is at the phone with a customer, the latter barely hears some music and noise in the background and concentrates on what the operator has to say.
If there’s music in the background, we can concentrate on our tasks, since the collegue sitting next to us chatting at the phone, will be covered up by the high noise floor level.
Music (i.e. electronic, acid jazz, some uptempo beats) can help concentration and produtivity, as long as it is intrumental. Lyrics tend to distract us, especially of songs that we know.
Still, employers should understand that our ears need a break just like our eyes. A 5 minutes break to rest our eyes after an hour work at the PC is normal, while for some reasons our ears are not considered.
If we are exposed to sounds for long hours (and in a call centre/open space office the average level is about 80 dB) we may encounter mild to serious problems. This exposure to noise can cause:
- neurological problems
- hearing loss (in the long run)
- increased general level of stress
- vocal chords damage (operators raise their voice)
The rooms have to be treated acoustically. Frankly, it is usually quite cheap to have a decent acoustic treatment. I believe an employer can even deduct from taxes all related expenses. So, come on, we want better working environment, there are no excuses.
Music: Does it Increase Productivity or not?
There is no single answer. Generally speaking, if you listen to instrumental music (of you choice) you might enter in a better mood, thus increasing your productivity levels. At the same time, you should make some breaks, to avoid ear stress and fatigue.
Music can boost creativity of people working in marketing, content creation or artistic realms. People performing repetitive tasks – such as data entry – may find that music allows better concentration and less mistakes. Still, there are many that prefer to work in total silence, especially when they are multitasking.
Actually you can try to listen to music 10 or 15 minutes prior to start working. This will definitely put you on the right track!