Some employers use music to enhance the workplace for their employees. Our bodies and brains respond to music, even if we’re not aware of it, says Amy Clements-Cortes, assistant professor, music and health research, University of Toronto. Music can both calm and excite our heart rates and alter our brain waves. And studies indicate that listening to music at work can be beneficial, she adds. “Music can combat boredom, increase productivity and improve employee morale.”
Before deciding to fill your office with music, however, there are some considerations that require attention:
> Too much of a good thing
Musical taste is personal and can be fickle. Take that tune you loved at the beginning of the summer. If you’ve heard it too often, you might find yourself becoming agitated when it plays now, she says. Since everyone has different “triggers,” be aware of this when choosing office music.
> Headphones isolate
Even if it were practical to wear headphones at work all the time (and it rarely is), it’s not a good idea for people to insist on only listening to their own music at work through their headphones. It may cause them to miss out on the collaboration and culture of the office, Clements-Cortes says.
> Don’t get too fancy
Music at work needs to be heard but not actively listened to, advises Clements-Cortes. This is not the place for complicated musical pieces that require our complete attention or concentration. But the music choices also can’t be so dull that they don’t register in the brain at all, she adds. Research by Muzak, the well-known purveyor of watered-down commercial background music, indicates that the best type of music to optimize productivity is popular rhythmic music, she says.
> Choice matters
“Trying to find something that will appeal to everyone is challenging,” says Clements-Cortes. That’s why it’s important to involve your employees in choosing the music. She suggests having certain areas of the office available for staff to listen to their own music, rather than having the choices already made for them. She also recommends giving each employee the opportunity to choose a playlist or genre for key times: the low-energy 4 pm block is a good choice because it may reinvigorate employees.
> Offer a quiet zone
For a truly healthy workplace, employees need to have the ability to avoid music altogether, if that’s what they choose to do. Some tasks are just too mentally demanding for background music. And sometimes people just feel like being quiet. There has to be a music-free work area, she says. And the rule could include banning headphones or earbuds, as sound can escape them and annoy other employees.