Open Ear Blog

Workspace Music

Here is a short excerpt from a recently published paper on the influence of music in work environments.

Workspace Odyssey - How workspaces can increase productivity and well-being by Anne-Cecile Bertrand.

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The impact of music & sound

We can close our eyes if we don’t want to see something, but it is very hard to close our ears. We tend to pick up sounds and noise unconsciously all the time and tune into them. Our body also tunes into the pace and rhythms of music automatically. Despite not actively listening, we still pick up on the sounds which can lead us to a certain pace.

When it comes to work, we often think that we need peace and silence in order to be productive, but total silence is rarely achieved and we pick up colleagues’ conversations and noise from the surroundings. This can be very distractive as it is random and unpredictable which in turn inhibits productivity.

Which is where the benefit of music in the workplace comes in. In communal space and open plan offices, there is little room for privacy. Noise and conversations are easily picked up. Music offers a great base tool to create an optimum work environment by serving as a sound making device that is less distracting and much more consistent than random noise.

Brian d’Souza, founder of Open Ear Ltd and who studied psychology and social sound design, has researched how music impacts on human behaviour and mood and has found that if used in the context of work space it can aid performance. He states that music has been proven to increase staff morale, improve the atmosphere and boost profitability. Research body Mindlab demonstrated that 88% of people were at their most accurate - and 81% at their fastest - when music was playing.

D’Souza points out that music at work performs a different function than listening to music in your spare time. Employees don’t necessarily need to have an affinity or connection to the music as the aim is to create an environment in which you can be as productive as possible. Of course, it is also really important that the music fits the company culture - reflected by the appropriate song lyrics, composition, genre etc. in order not to alienate employees.

When designing sound tracks for offices, d’Souza highlights the importance of making sure that the soundtrack caters to most tastes, contains a mix of instrumental (non-intrusive so as not to distract) and more familiar songs (recognisable to promote comfort). He also argues it should focus on sounds which are warm, smooth and are unlikely to jar or interrupt the train of thought. The playlists should adjust according to the time of day and be segmented to create an appropriate energy at the right time.

Employees who are working in a static place are craving for variety and change and music can be a very powerful tool to cater to that need, too.

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To read the full article you can head to linkedin

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