The Sound of Productivity – The Effects of Music on Workplace Productivity 

There’s no doubt that music is an influential tool, played pretty much everywhere we go with the power to curate the mood of any room in an instant.

But when it comes to businesses allowing employees to plug into that controversial pair of earphones, we really have to ask: what value can melody add to our workflow? 

To understand the true effect of music on workplace productivity, particularly in light of the diverse and varied workday of a recruiter, there’s a few factors to think about (beyond double checking whether your company complies with a licence from PPL PRS). We therefore rounded up the main points to consider in the conversation of office tunes. 

Music helps us have a good – or better – time 

There’s no doubt that music can have a positive effect on tasks we simply don’t love doing, whether that’s cleaning the house or repetitive tasks at our desks.

But just how effective music is is dependent on how “immersive” a task is – or put more simply: how much a task demands of you creatively. 

When your work is more clearly distinguished with repetitive, smaller, more simple tasks, research from Applied Ergonomics suggests that music can be really helpful. 

The study reported that when studying the effect of background music during repetitive work, ‘music is effective in raising efficiency in this type of work even in competition with the unfavourable conditions produced by machine noise’ and the results gave ‘strong support to the contention that economic benefits can accrue from the use of music in industry’.

Furthermore, QZ rounded up just what’s going on in the brain during the tiring effects of repetitive tasks, citing that ‘When you listen to music you enjoy, the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine, which makes you feel good, and reduces stress and anxiety’. Ultimately, if we’re happier, remaining motivated while we get through repetitive tasks is naturally easier.

More music, less distractions 

Whilst some thrive on the hustle and bustle of an open office, the point remains that for many, a constantly noisy office can be a threat to productivity. And whilst that is true, many companies see a presence of headphones as more of an unproductive sight than that of an open-plan office. 

A study focussing on how music affects workplace performance conducted by Dr. Teresa Leisiuk, a professor in Music Therapy and Systematic Musicology, found that ‘narrative responses revealed the value of music listening for positive mood change and enhanced perception on design while working’. In short, Leisiuk’s study found that music allowed the subjects to complete the tasks more quickly and more creatively, with an improved mood. 

Mood again is a key factor in this, meaning that music can allow those with more introverted personality types, or those who prefer working without distractions to work at their best regardless of environment. 

Not every track is perfect 

When thinking about music as a tool, it’s also pretty useful to remember that music is a vast expense of beats, genres and tempo – if music can help your productivity, not every song is going to do the trick. So of course, there’s a few things to consider. 

One of the first things to consider is the true value of ambience. A study by the Journal of Consumer Research that volume is pretty important. While moderate noise can get us in the zone, too much noise can be off-putting. 

Additionally, a second study by the Acoustical Society of America cited the value of “natural” sounds ‘to meet standards and criteria for speech privacy while enhancing cognitive functioning, optimizing the ability to concentrate, and increasing overall worker satisfaction’. Time to get those jungle noises playing…

On the other hand, the value of lyrics really varies. For physical tasks, music with lyrics can have really great benefits. Alternatively, for intensive, thought-driven tasks, the opposite can be true and a study by professors at the University of Turku found that 48% of participants listed intelligible talking as the most distracting noise. But for creative tasks, Lesiuk found that lyrics can actually help output. 

What’ll work for me? 

When weighing up what music works best, it has been found that music you’re familiar with can be really beneficial, since you’re focussing on the task at hand rather than waiting to find out what comes next. 

But beyond that, it’s important to think about what tasks make up your day to work out if music is actually beneficial. For a recruiter, the day is generally made up searching for candidates and leads, as well as engaging with candidates and hiring manager. Whilst familiar music with lyrics may be okay during searching and formatting CVs, music without lyrics would be significantly better while while writing emails or engaging in any intensive tasks. 

Although music may not be the most popular solution in the race for better productivty, studies have generally all given a big thumbs up to effect of classical music, with one particular study by the American Roentgen Ray Society citing finding Baroque-period songs to have a great effect on productivity (no surprises there). All in all, given the right choice of song, matched with the right task, putting a little more music your workday could really boost your results. 

To find the full guide to recruitment habits, as well as other areas of productivity, you can download our full ebook on Recruitment Productivity Hacks here.

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SourceBreaker’s Recruitment Productivity Hacks offers a conclusive guide to help you supercharge output, drive revenue and deliver a high-value service with maximum efficiency, everyday. This includes:

1. Productivity Frameworks – A closer look at multiple popular strategies for effective overall time management & personal organisation. 

2. Templates & Automation – Our guide to templates and automation to get the most out of your communication and minimise your repetitive tasks.

3. Habits of Super Recruiters – The workday habits to get the most out of everything you do and change the way you work to get maximum results.

4. Productivity Toolbox – A guide to the up-to-date tech tools you need to upturn your team’s overall efficiency.