by Sabine Chen
Music – everyone likes it, whether you’re bopping to a 70’s disco track or keeping it mellow with Drake. Its presence at the workplace has been a topic of fierce debate, with one popular notion being that classical music is best at increasing work productivity. But does it really help?
Good Times to Tune In
1. During Repetitive Tasks
When completing tasks with low immersion rates such as checking your email or doing data entry, a study states that “music can influence in a positive way the efficiency of operative carrying out short cycle repetitive tasks”. This works because of a renewal of the “actile” period, the maximum period of efficiency.
Repetitive tasks tend to bore people after a short time, leading to a decrease in efficiency. This decline can be avoided by introducing stimuli like alcohol or caffeine near to the end of the stretch of maximum efficiency – or better yet, music.
2. When It Gets Noisy
One thing that affects one’s ability to concentrate is noise in the work environment. According to this article by The New Yorker, “office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic”. What’s more, this is especially true for open-plan offices, where “the loss of productivity due to noise distraction… [is] doubled” as opposed to closed-partition offices.
Bad Times to Tune In
1. Trying to Remember Something
Researchers found that music may impair memory functions such as serial recall, due to people getting distracted by the lyrics and notes of their music. This phenomenon, also known as the Irrelevant Sound Effect (ISE), occurs “due to conflicting order information automatically set up by ordered auditory material”.
2. Carrying Out Complex Tasks
When you’re putting your brain through higher cognitive processes, music can be highly disruptive. It’s much easier to process information with minimal auditory distraction. This was substantiated by a study conducted by the Inquiry Journal, where participants performed better on a cognitive processing test “while listening to no music than they did while listening to either stimulating or sedative music”.
1. Music You Like – At a Moderate Volume
Surprisingly enough, it is the intensity of the music that matters when it comes to cognitive performance, rather than the type of music. Additionally, high levels of noise cause people to have decreased ability to process information, whereas a moderate level of ambient noise enhances information-processing, which leads to abstract cognition and improved creativity.
This means that as long as your music is soft enough to tune out, you should be able to listen to whatever you like. So much for the Mozart Effect – the idea that if children or even babies listen to music composed by Mozart, they will become more intelligent.
2. Videogame Music
Videogame music was designed with a purpose: to spur players on and keep their spirits up, while being unobtrusive enough to keep from distracting. The tracks create the same motivational effect while you’re doing work, allowing you to maintain a positive, energised mindset.
Where to Get It: The One Ups is the place to start – their tunes have just the right amount of groove without being distracting. Or, head for lighthearted fan favourites like the
3. Coloured Noise
Did you know that there is an entire rainbow of noise colours? These sonic hues cover the audible spectrum our ears can pick up on, and each sound comes with its own special properties. For instance, brown noise, which mimics the signal noise generated by Brownian motion, has been touted to help you sleep better.
Sample of Brown Noise:
What coloured noise does is called sound masking, which is defined by Cambridge Sound as the addition of an unobtrusive background sound… To reduce the intelligibility of human speech and reduce distractions. The result? Enhanced productivity and greater working comfort.
4. Ambient Music
Arguably the pioneer of ambient music, producer Brian Eno once said that ambient must be as ignorable as it is interesting”. What he means is that ambient music is designed to stay in the background, but remains engaging enough to occupy the listener’s subconscious, allowing them to concentrate on the tasks they have at hand.
Where to Get It: Check out Peaceful Indie Ambient on Spotify, which sounds just like its name. Alternatively, here’s a playlist with a darker tone by
5. Classical Music
If none of the options above suit you, there’s always the tried-and-tested route of classical music. Classical isn’t limited to Beethoven or Mozart any longer. Contemporary classical is on the rise, with more artists experimenting with electronic elements to produce amazing cross-genre music.
Where to Get It: by Ólafur Arnalds is hands-down one of my favourite albums of all time. Check out for something more upbeat.
Need help simplifying your business processes? Alpha7 has plenty of useful tools to help you cut out the fuss and focus on what you do best, and they’re all available on our A7 AppsConnect™ platform. If you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to like us on , follow us on , or drop us an email to be added to our mailing list!