There's no doubt (yes, pun intended!) music affects us all, in very different ways. Hearing your favourite song can transport you to a different time and a place, or maybe evoke a beloved memory. Music is so ingrained in our daily lives – from our passion for our favourite artists or genres, to background noise that disguises the ambient sounds of office minutiae.
While the long history of music as a form of therapy is well-documented, arguments for and against the benefits of music in the workplace continue to rage on.
Condeco employees share their feelings on some of the most debated aspects of the topic:
As Skyscrapers became more popular, so did the necessity of elevators. As the story goes, early skyscraper users were nervous about getting into a tiny box, so to help calm riders’ nerves, building owners would pipe in soothingly bland music. Soon, ‘elevator music’ became shorthand for any boring, non-threatening instrumental music. Should calming music be similarly utilised in the workplace, to help with the customer journey?
“Music can completely change everyone’s mood; silence for some people can be uncomfortable. Music in the background can make everyone’s mood a little brighter, which is especially good for front of house.” – Shenel Backhouse, Front of House, London
“In front of house I don’t see this being an issue, music can create a nice atmosphere for guests and employees” – John Bravo, Sr Sales Account Manager, Los Angeles
“Yes, I think having music in workplace is a fantastic idea. I’ve read a number of studies that show music has a positive effect on mood. To speak for myself, soft background music is relaxing and provides just enough quiet noise to keep me focused on my work and elevate my mood. I believe music is 100% connected to mood. When people are in a good mood, this creates a positive work environment.” – Lauren Bromberg, Events Manager, Americas
“One in three employees are less likely to take time off sick if background music is playing" – Entertainment Media Research for MusicWorks
Warehouse workers say they are more productive when good music is played in the background. Of course, the idea of good music is extremely subjective! What are Condeco employees’ opinions on the benefits of background music?
"I think it would be a distraction in a traditional office. But maybe not in a warehouse or factory. Garages, hairdressers and most retailers will play music, and their workers will have to listen to it. So as long as it’s not distracting or offensive music (which is subjective) then it would work." - Simon Cohen, Head of Partners and Alliances EMEA, Condeco
“Background music would only be achievable in certain areas of the office. Music which is happy and uplifting and puts you in a happy mood, fast tempos and positive lyrics can help my productivity. The right type of music accommodating your entire workforce is difficult to achieve.” – Alex Glenister, Regional Account Manager, Sydney
“I would not support music playing in background. Our workplace is busy, and many colleagues are having meetings and phone calls. The working environment is already busy, and adding another element would make this distracting” – Chance Correia, Head of Professional Services, New York
"Good background music can help employees to relieve stress and manage work tension between colleagues (especially when they start singing along together). However the volume of such music should be kept at minimal so as to not cause any disturbance to other employees – it can be easy for them to tune out the music." – Leona Seng, Events and Partnership Manager, APAC
"73% of warehouse workers say they are more productive when good background music is being played" – source
Productivity and Music
Per a survey by design company Woods Bagot, one in five workers now listens to an iPod or similar device at their desk, with just under a quarter listening to music for up to three hours each day. Can listening to music on a personal device help boost individual productivity? Or does it harm collaboration between colleagues?
“I feel listening to music can allow some people to focus and concentrate on the task, although I think this should only be for short periods of time as long sustained periods of listening to music can have an effect of collaboration” - Karina Muradian, Contracts and Billing Manager, London
“Yes, listening to music via headphones definitely harms collaboration. I only listen to music if I’m concentrating on a particular document. You always need to communicate with your colleagues, so being accessible is important, perhaps only having one earphone in could help with this problem.” – Alex Glenister, Regional Account Manager, Sydney
“It can harm collaboration if you have headphones on, since you look busy. I recommend people only using one earphone for music.” – Chance Correia, Head of Professional Services, New York
"Absorbing and remembering new information is best done with the music off", according to a 2010 study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, while Dr Carolyn Axtell of the Institute of Work Psychology says that music can be a distraction if a high level of concentration is required. Do Condeco employees agree?
"I agree with this statement, during high levels of concentration I would find music a huge distraction and this would hinder the learning process" - Abner Yeboah, Finance Department, London
“With the ability for everyone to listen to their own style of music through personal devices, there is no reason to have a single source of music playing in the workplace – there may be some employees who are completely unable to focus and this will affect their productivity.” - Donna Foreshaw, Vice President Sales, Americas
“I don’t mind music playing, it keeps me focused on what I’m doing. The type of music needs to be considered to the larger group of people. Background music in the office should be shared play lists – easy listening, middle of the road, genres that suit the circumstances of the office environment.” – Lauren Bermel, IT Project Manager, London
“It’s difficult to choose music which suits everyone’s tastes, some people find it can help with productivity. Everyone has a variety of learning and working styles, in our activity-based working environment, we should be able to accommodate for all employees.” – Claire Roper, Content Manager, London
“I think it depends on the music and the person. Everyone is different. A friend of mine in college would listen to death metal while studying. That would definitely not work for me. I tend to prefer silence or very low hip hop, jazz, or classical music when I am learning something new. This is mainly because I have a learning technique that involves reciting information out loud.” - Lauren Bromberg, Events Manager, Americas Fostering
Innovation and Design
A study by Teresa Lesiuk, Frost School of Music, University of Miami, found IT specialists who listened to music completed tasks faster, and came up with better ideas, than those who didn't. Is there a perk to listening to different genres of music, and can a variety of music help increase innovation in the workplace?
“If the circumstance arose where I had to listen to music I didn’t like, I feel my productivity and creativity would definitely be harmed. However, if it’s music to my taste then yes, it would absolutely help my creativity flow and the task at hand would be easier. - Jill Duncan, Channel Development Manager, Denver
“In this situation, I feel music is helpful. It allows individuals to drown out the white noise in the office and begin to really concentrate and get into a ‘flow’ of work, but my personal choice would be to ensure I only had in one headphone, ensuring I was still approachable to other colleagues”. – Chance Correia, Head of Professional Services, New York
"Music a personal choice, and for me, each task warrants a different genre. When I was studying at University, I chose classical music, this helped me to channel my concentration levels. However, during administrative tasks in the workplace, I prefer rock or upbeat music." - Samuel James, Inside Sales, London
"I believe like any new experience, situation or learning environment, music helps to open our minds to new ideas." – John Bravo, Sr Sales Account Manager, Americas
Music choice always comes down to personal taste. When you have a diverse workforce, equally diverse music preferences are inevitable. So, what type of music works best in the workplace?
“I like a variety of music, but in particular I like to listen to film scores to help me concentrate on difficult lengthy tasks.” – Matthew Smith, PMO, London
“Depends on the task – if I was concentrating on data entry, my choice of music would be something very upbeat, with a consistent tempo to keep me in the zone.” – Elliott Statham, Inside Sales, Sydney
“My music taste varies depending on my day, mood, and context really. Sometimes it can be alternative rock for when I want to zone out, get into a rhythm with work and tap out from hearing the world around me; upbeat pop rock works when that afternoon pick me up is needed.” – Jade Roberts, Social Media Manager, London