Music really is the best therapy

The question of whether listening to music at work impacts positively or negatively on productivity has been answered – yet some 20% of Australian offices prohibit music in the workplace.

A significant proportion of office workers who are forbidden from listening to music – 77 per cent – believe it would reduce stress and anxiety and improve their mood.

The survey by music streaming service Spotify, also showed that 51 per cent of those prohibited agreed it would help them be more productive and creative.

A key element of listening to music while working is also that it allows workers to optimise their productivity at certain times of the day, or ‘block out annoying colleagues’ when the utmost concentration is required.

Those who listened to music at work said it:

  • Boosts their mood
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Helps them be more productive
  • Aids concentratuion and focus
  • Fosters creativity

Music selection was found to be paramount when Spotify investigated the science behind how different types of music can be used to optimise the working day.

Clare Mann, Director of Communicate31 and Fellow of the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) who was commissioned for the research, said four areas where music can aid the average office worker were identified by the research:

Stress and anxiety relief

“At times of high pressure and stress – such as before a big presentation – songs close to the 60 beats per minute mark are ideal. Studies have shown that breathing in time to such music, at a controlled pace, helps lower blood pressure, in turn combating anxiety,” Mann said.

Example: Songs like Better Together by Jack Johnson work well for this.

Happiness, motivation and energy

“Upbeat music – around the 120 – 140 beats per minute mark – has been shown to help with motivation – it’s why people tend to listen to it when exercising. Faster paced music can also help raise energy levels, for example combatting lethargy in the ‘post lunch slump’,” she said.

Example: Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun

Concentration, focus and productivity

“For times of the day when you need to ‘buckle down’ and focus, studies have shown that Classical or Easy Listening music – with a continuous rhythm of around 50 – 60 beats per minute, can dramatically improve cognitive performance and information retention,” Mann said,

Recent research also suggests that pop and rock with a tempo between 60 and 97 beats per minute can have similar productivity gains. Just keep it simple, not too loud, not too familiar and avoid music with lyrics as they can distract from the task at hand.”

Example: Gymnopedie No. 1 by Eric Satie.

Inter-office relations and collaboration

“Music is a great connector of people and can spark conversations, debate and other forms of social interaction, which fosters collaboration. However, music is subjective so it’s important to make sure everyone has an equal say in what they listen to,” Mann said.

“Creating a shared communal environment, such as a shared playlist on music streaming service Spotify, gives everyone the opportunity to influence what music is played.”

Example: Pop and Rock tunes such as Royals by Lorde or Naïve by The Kooks can work well to promote a collegial office environment.

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