The nation has spoken: we want to hear our favourite tunes at our desks. A survey by LinkedIn and Spotify revealed the majority of British workers are keen to listen to music at work, but can it – and should it – be done? From having colleagues with bad taste, to rules about wearing headphones, playing songs in the office isn’t always that popular. Here’s how to navigate it…
Check Your Workplace’s Policy
Before pressing play, speak to your manager to find out if there’s an official company policy about listening to music or wearing headphones – while headphones are generally favoured, some workplaces ban them as they’re considered anti-social.
Consider Your Colleagues
Even in rare cases where you’re allowed to play music on a loudspeaker, it’s polite to check with your colleagues first. Some people find it impossible to work with music playing, plus there’s the whole issue of differing music tastes. To help, Spotify curated a supposedly work-friendly playlist of the 50 most ‘appropriate’ office songs (the UK public voted Ed Sheeran the least offensive artist to play, but the SL jury’s still out on that one).
Learn What Helps You Focus
The LinkedIn and Spotify survey found that almost three quarters of British workers (73%) think music makes them more productive, with 67% saying it motivates them and 41% claiming it keeps them calm.
Music psychologist at York University, Dr Hauke Egermann, agrees music is a great way to achieve an optimal working environment – but says it’s important you match your music with the task at hand. According to Dr Egermann, listening to songs with lyrics while writing can be distracting, but instrumental music can help improve focus. When working on something complicated, look for music to keep you calm. And while working on repetitive tasks, stimulating music could motivate you to finish it faster.
Make Your Case
If you work much better with music, but your office doesn’t allow headphones, try explaining the benefits to your boss. Having especially noisy colleagues, or building works and background noise outside are perfectly good reasons to want to cancel out some noise. You could also suggest using smaller in-ear headphones and even leaving one ear out, rather than wearing larger noise-cancelling types, to ensure you’re still able to hear if someone starts speaking to you.
Press Pause If You’re Doing This
While studies have proven music can improve creativity and help people focus on monotone duties, they’ve also shown it can have a negative effect on those performing memory-based tasks. If your job involves a lot of memory and multitasking, avoiding music is a good idea.
Try This Instead
When music in the office is a no-go, listen to it on your way in instead. Daniel Levitin, cognitive neuroscientist and author of This is Your Brain on Music , believes listening to 15 minutes of music before starting work can boost performance by raising levels of feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain.