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The benefits of music for the body, mind and soul are numerous and backed by a large body of scientific research. Studies have shown that listening to music can help lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce stress and anxiety, increase concentration and memory, and improve mood and sleep quality, among other things.  

A lot of people also claim that music can serve as a motivation booster at work, helping them increase their focus and productivity levels and making them feel happier overall. But just as many argue that music can be detrimental in the workplace. So, is listening to music at work a good idea? The answer is yes and no. There isn’t a consensus on the topic, and that’s probably because, in a work setting, music can be both beneficial and disadvantageous, depending on context. That’s why, before you turn on the tunes, you should take into account the potential advantages and drawbacks and then decide if, in your specific case, music can work for or against you. 

The pros

Working to the sound of music in the background (or the headphones) has become a common practice nowadays as many companies allow or even encourage their employees to listen to their favourite beats while they go about their daily tasks. A 2019 survey conducted on 2000 Brits revealed that approximately half of the respondents listened to music while they worked. This has also given rise to a wide range of workplace music playlists on YouTube that are meant to boost creativity and productivity and which unsurprisingly enjoy massive popularity judging by the millions of views they amass.   

All these companies and their employees might be onto something because if listening to music weren’t helpful in the least, we doubt this habit would be so prevalent. So, let’s take a look at the positive aspects first. 

People enjoy listening to music they like because it makes them feel good, whether they’re at home, at the gym or at work. The positive effect that music has on the mind and body is the same regardless of the setting, owing to the release of the mood-enhancing chemical dopamine in the brain. And we all know that happiness at work has a direct impact on performance and productivity levels. Happy employees have a more positive attitude towards work, they’re more motivated, creative and less likely to quit, so if music can improve your morale even just a bit, it’s worth giving it a shot. 

Work-related stress has become a normal part of most people’s lives, being caused by long hours, heavy workloads, interactions with colleagues and managers, or the very nature of the job. While stress is an integral part of most jobs, there are ways to combat it, and music just happens to be one of the most effective tools for stress management. Slower tempo music influences the biological processes that get triggered when you experience stress and anxiety, lowering cortisol levels and reducing your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. 

Reducing stress levels through music also comes with the added benefit of improving memory retention. With stress out of the picture, your brain can store and remember information with greater ease. 

Not all work-related activities require mental concertation. A lot of people have jobs that involve physical labour and repetitive tasks that tend to get dull after a while, causing employees to lose motivation. The right kind of music – this time more upbeat and uplifting tunes – can serve as a stimulus in these situations, providing much-needed variation and helping you maintain a more alert pace so you can keep up with your tasks. 

The cons 

While many employees have adopted a tolerant stance on music in the workplace, there are also numerous companies that have strict policies against it, given the potential negative effects it can cause. 

Not everyone reacts to music in the same way. While some employees may enjoy turning the tunes on while working, others may find it disturbing and counterproductive. This can easily be fixed by asking employees who do want to listen to music to use headphones or earbuds. But even then, others may still be able to hear the music if the volume is too loud. That’s why it’s necessary to listen to genres that are suited for workplace environments and keep the volume low. 

But it’s not just the differences in individual preferences that make music in the workplace such a touchy subject. What’s truly worrying is that listening to music while you’re on the job can turn into a safety hazard for you and those around you. Apart from not being able to hear notifications or calls from co-workers, music can also block certain sounds that are meant to inform you of potential danger, like an evacuation, a piece of malfunctioning equipment or a vehicle coming your way. Distractions – be it chatting, daydreaming or listening to music – are known to be one of the main causes of workplace injuries that you can learn more about at https://www.personalinjuryclaimsuk.org.uk/

Last but not least, music can also be a learning disruptor, which can lead to lower productivity in many situations. If your job implies performing activities that require processing information or call for your undivided attention, then music will obviously interfere with the mental process and become an obstacle in completing your tasks. 

Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time, so if you’re trying to understand and absorb information while you’re also listening to music, you can only do one of the two. It’s more likely for this to happen if you’re listening to tracks with lyrics that you’ve never heard before, as you’ll be tempted to focus on the message of the song to the detriment of your work-related activities. 

So, whether you should listen to music at work or not really depends on the nature of your job and your personal relation to music. If you (and your employer) find that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, you can calmly put your headphones on and hit play.