Just a few months ago, the New York Times addressed the issue of noise in the workplace. The conclusion? We need less of it. Now, the NYT is talking about how adding sounds can help aid with focus and enhance your mood at work – you just have to pick the right kind of noise.
Music Makes Us Work Better
Apparently, individuals who are moderately skilled at their jobs (in other words, most of us) gain substantial productivity by listening to music while we work. This isn’t just true for manual jobs like assembly line work. It also holds true for knowledge work such as IT that require a high level of concentration, attention to detail and creative problem solving.
Choose Your Tunes
Musical pieces without words are the best option since there are no lyrics to distract the listener. With just instrumental music, you can get in the zone with the musical part of your brain without interfering with the function of the language center. Other than that, there’s not really any “best” music – it should just be something you like. Whether that’s Bach, Miles Davis or Union Station is up to you. Having control over the selection rather than being forced to listen to someone else’s music makes a big difference.
Create a Sound Sanctuary
Obviously, earphones are a necessity if you work in a cubicle or open office environment so everyone can have their own personal soundtrack. This raises the question of workplace collaboration. How can coworkers interact with you if you’re plugged in all day?
The NY Times article points out that you don’t need to listen all day long to reap the productivity benefits of music in the workplace. 20-30 minutes here and there is sufficient to help most people refocus. So, employees might simply choose to use the ear buds or headphones during those times when they really need to concentrate – which means coworkers shouldn’t interrupt them anyway.
Second, it might actually be helpful for people to limit the amount of cross-cubicle talk in open work areas. It’s disruptive to everyone and part of the reason people use music to block out excessive office noise in the first place.
What do you think? Is it OK to listen while you work?