Saturday, February 02, 2013

Music While You Work

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that music has value in the workplace. For workers involved in more repetitive tasks this has long been known. Music has been shown to reduce stress, relieve boredom and importantly, increase productivity. The rhythmic effect of music in particular has been shown to increase concentration and output. Not just in manufacturing environments either – but in other industries. In the 1980s a British Bank reported a 23% increase in the amount of cheques processed by their clearing centre when staff were listening to music. It appears that music and rhythm helps people get into a “groove” with what they’re doing. The effect is not just psychological – music has an impact physiologically. Amongst other effects music has been shown to increase alertness and help maintain a regular heartbeat.

Since the decline of manufacturing and the increase in automation and office based work – there has been less emphasis on the use of music in the workplace. It was thought that office and executive work would not benefit from music in the same degree. Yet there is evidence to the contrary. Research in Canada with software designers suggests that music also enhances creativity and concentration for demanding mental tasks.

Now we’re in the digital and internet age music listening is more personal – with the ubiquitous use of iPods and MP3 players. The University of Sheffield conducted a study of 300 office workers listening to music of their own choice for a third of their week. The researchers were looking at characteristics including inspiration, concentration, positive distraction, stress relief and managing personal space. Employees used sensible music listening practices including not disturbing fellow workers or appearing unprofessional in front of clients.

Interestingly music was shown to help people both engage in their work and escape from their work – and in that way have a positive impact on their work-life balance.

Music is undoubtedly a powerful tool, so why not try your own research? If you have some repetitive or physical tasks to do, try listening to music with rhythm and beat. If you need concentration for a task, select some music with a more calming effect. If your mood or creativity needs a boost try listening to something that inspires you.

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