There are two types of people in this world: those who prefer to work in silence, and those who insist they’re most productive while listening to music. Both camps find it hard to understand how the other group gets anything done. So who’s right? Well, in a way… both groups are!
According to one study published in Scientific American, how music affects your brain varies from person to person – so it’s completely plausible that while a good playlist might help you power through writing an important report, it might distract your colleague from making any progress at all.
If you’re in the musical camp, have you ever stopped to what it is about listening music that makes it so good for your work ethic? Turns out there’s some pretty solid scientific evidence to back it up.
Music Boosts Your Mood
It’s no surprise that listening to sad music can make you feel sad, while listening to upbeat music can make you feel happier – we all know this intuitively. What’s more surprising is that regardless of the type of music playing, listening to music at work can boost your mood.
As Teresa Lesiuk, associate professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Miami, is quoted in an article on Futurism.com, listening to music you enjoy will produce a “mild, positive mood” about “90 percent of the time.” She goes on to say that being in that particular mood state is good for productivity because “you’re better at problem solving and thinking creatively.”
Music Counteracts Noise Distraction
While some people find music itself to be a distraction, for music-lovers it can actually help to counteract other potential distractions common to an office space, such as conversations, printers, foot traffic, phones ringing – the list could go on.
In a noisy work environment, your brain will attempt to filter and make sense of all the sounds happening around you. This takes a lot of mental power, even if it is subconscious. Studies have shown that this passive data processing not only steals mental energy away from your work, but increases the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which negatively impacts executive function.
Music helps you tune out this background noise without adding to the mental noise pollution. In a 2012 study published in The Journal of Consumer Research, creative processes were found to improve while participants listened to ambient noise (such as music) at a moderate volume.
Music Calms the Mind and Improves Focus
The Journal of Music Therapy found that listening to your favorite music lowers your perception of tension – not to be confused with your physical levels of arousal, such as heart rate and respiration, which can increase when listening fast-paced music. A calmer, less tense mind is free to focus on the task at hand.
Numerous studies over the years corroborate this. Research has found that listening to background music can help participants achieve better memory results on cognitive tasks and identify numbers more quickly and accurately – both of which can be attributed to enhanced focus.
What’s the Best Music For Work Productivity?
You might expect to hear that the best music to listen to during the workday is instrumental, ambient, or classical. The perception is that music without lyrics, high tempos, or aggressive melodies will be less distracting.
In reality, the best music to listen to during the workday is whatever your favorite music is. When we listen to music that is new to us, research has found that our bodies release dopamine in response to the “newness.” Dopamine, as you may know, is associated with pleasure. That means that as soon as that dopamine hits, the new music becomes more interesting than anything else we’re doing at the time – like our work.
Our favorite music, while undoubtedly pleasurable, doesn’t have the novelty factor, so it doesn’t trigger a dopamine rush. We know it so well that we can let it wash over us – leaving our mind free to focus on more important things.
So next time a coworker expresses doubt that you’re getting any work done while bobbing your head to your favorite jam, just tell them, “It’s helping me focus – science says so.”