A report shows why listening to music can benefit your performance at work, and what do some L&D professionals listen to?
It’s official – far from being a distraction and having a negative impact on your work – listening to music in the workplace makes you better at your job by helping you to focus and concentrate.
That’s the conclusion of a new report released this week into attitudes towards having music on at work, which reveals The Foo Fighters, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar as being among the nation’s favourite artists to listen to.
It is based on a study commissioned by totaljobs and music streaming service Deezer, which was conducted by music psychologist Dr Anneli Haake.
An analysis of data from 4,553 people who took part in an online survey revealed that 79 per cent of employees would benefit from listening to music at work.
The news will be welcomed by music lovers wanting to escape the sound of silence at work, with more than a third (35%) choosing pop music as their preferred genre and just seven per cent opting for classical music.
However, listening to music in the workplace is still forbidden in many places, with more than one in three workers (38 per cent) not allowed to listen to music at work.
Accountancy, banking, insurance and customer service are the least music-friendly industries, with more than half of workers (57 per cent) not allowed to listen in the work environment. By contrast, more than two thirds (66 per cent) of those in computer programming, data analytics, advertising and marketing are allowed to listen to and choose their own music.
Caution is urged in handling the issue. Dr Haake, writing in the report’s foreword, says: “If music is forced upon people, it can be irritating and annoying, and we know from research that office noise can have severe negative effects on employee health, well-being and productivity.”
She adds: “Enjoyed as a private activity, music in offices can be seen by employees as a perk; a positive route to personal happiness and well-being. What’s more, it’s a clever way to help manage work environments and minimise interruptions; a cost effective way to combat stress; and a positive technique for encouraging employee self-care.”
Musical choices vary between generations as well as job types. Teenagers and those in their 20’s need to listen to things “with more stimulating musical features” compared to their counterparts born 50 years earlier, according to the report.
“The more complex the work and tasks are, and the more introverted the person is, the simpler the music they listen to should be,” it adds.
“Giving individual employees access to music in the workplace offers considerable benefits,” the report concludes.
John Salt, director, totaljobs, commented: “Music in the workplace can have a positive effect on employee productivity. If your employer discourages music in your workplace, they may be putting themselves at a disadvantage as a business,” he said.
There has been a mixed response from L&D professionals to the findings. Harold Jarche, founder of Jarche Consulting, said: “I do not listen to music while working.” His approach was echoed by Stella Collins, author of ‘Neuroscience for Learning and Development’, who told TJ: “When working no music for me at all please – it completely interferes with my thinking.”
Others confessed their guilty musical pleasures at work, with Martin Baker, chief executive, Charity Learning Consortium, naming Black Sabbath, The Police, and Phil Collins as his favourites. Charles Jennings, co-founder of the 70:20:10 Institute justified his fondness for Bob Dylan say he was “a child of the ‘60s” while learning consultant Nigel Paine’s “big obsessions at the moment are: ‘American Honey’ by Lady Antebellum, ‘Until She Comes’ by Psychedelic Furs, and ‘Into the Valley’ by the Skids. All fabulous songs.”
Andrew Jacobs, organisational learning and talent manager at the London Borough of Lewisham, said: “I’ll put my earbuds in at work and then play nothing. The act of having headphones in stops people interrupting me and means I can concentrate a little better.” When it comes to actually listening to music, he prefers instrumental chill out, ambient and trip hop tracks, otherwise he gets “distracted by the lyrics and wanting to sing along.”