Tuning in – music while you work?

BY John Nilo

{UI/UX Designer}

15 August 2017

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s 6 am Wednesday morning; sleepy eyes open as phone speakers loudly blast a once favourite song to welcome in a new day.

With common morning activities of showering, putting pants on, sniffing for a clean shirt from the pile, etc completed; earphones are plugged into my head before dashing out the front door and into the rest of the world for the day.

Sound familiar?

With tech advances allowing vast libraries of creative media to be at our fingertips, it’s no surprise that our consumption of music has become ingrained into our daily routines. It can set the pace for movement, heighten moods, and can be as welcome as a fresh cup of coffee on that daily commute or cut through the din of being stuck in traffic.

So how does your favourite playlist or radio station fare when you take it with you into a work environment?

With my own varied work history ranging from retail, production line, hospitality, and office environments, I’ve found that genres, pace, and style of music had to be adapted depending on the tasks at hand, either by my own choice where possible or at the organisation’s discretion. The reason for this is simple; music can directly influence productivity. Queue some examples of different workplaces and tasks to establish context.

Low Immersion Repetitive Tasks

When the tasks at hand are deemed repetitive and clearly defined, research has suggested that music can have a positive effect regarding productivity.

Furthermore, the positive influence of background music in relation to employee mood aids productivity. This is further supported by another piece conducted on production line workers and the impact that music has on their efficiency and overall productivity.

Immersive/Learning tasks.

Tasks that require more concentration, however, require a more refined selection. Even on a subconscious level, certain music types can demand levels of attention that could prove to hinder learning and productivity. Just like being in an environment where background chatter can distract from the task at hand, the presence of lyrics in music or listening to new unfamiliar pieces can cause a distraction by generating unwanted focus on what you are listening to. It’s a popular argument that ‘familiarity’ with your choice of music is the best for focusing as even listening passively, you are already aware of the direction of the piece and not unknowingly listening for anything new.

As an expressive art, music can evoke emotions; happiness, tranquillity, nostalgia, spurring motivation and heightening moods.

So what’s on your work playlist?

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