Chris Newnham

Chris Newnham

Chris Newnham

Chris Newnham

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Music in the workplace

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How does your work environment fuel productivity?

This is something I’ve been thinking about lately. As a business still very much in its infancy, something we wanted to establish from the outset is our ‘culture’. From the way we communicate, engage, act and work they are all central to our vision and strategy.

Culture can be linked to having an environment which fuels productivity which is important as it not only helps keep you engaged but also inherently makes you more efficient at your job.

Recently we’ve been working with a business coach to help us understand the dynamics of the partnership and overcoming the challenges of a new business. Aside from the recognition of our own strengths and weaknesses one of the key elements that has struck me is maintaining a productive and efficient balance between work and lifestyle.

Particularly when so much of the work is conducted in the home environment it’s important to have a mental and physical switch off, other-wise you burn out and lose sight of the ‘why’ you’re doing this in the first place.

For me, I find solace in music & coffee. Music envelopes the immediate environment and helps me maintain a focus on the task. Coffee just keeps the energy levels up. There are lots of pros and cons to music in the workplace and i’ve worked for companies on both sides of the fence but for me it’s a place to ‘get into the zone’.

Whatever your taste in tunes there are various research studies out there across multiple industries. With the advent of Spotify and other cloud based music providers you can take your playlists anywhere, whether it’s commuting on the train or working in a café, your environment goes with you so you can maintain an efficient production line.

So what about the science?

In 2005 a study into ‘the effect of music listening on work performance’ was conducted on behalf of computer software developers. One specific study actually demonstrated how music eased anxiety in developers. Another illustrated how the music improved general mood and ambience to help employees think clearer and more creatively.

The most revealing of all though was that listening to music actually reduced the amount of time taken to achieve tasks.

In another study with athletes who were tasked to walk the stadium before an event, they identified that music that had a ‘heavy bass’ actually helped listeners perform better because they were more fired up and braver to tackle the objective.

So does the type of music depend on the environment or mood?

Yes, to a degree. Heavy bass lines are good for ‘firing up’ the energy before a big meeting, sports event or something that gets the adrenaline going, perhaps a pitch. On the other hand, inspirational, low tempo tunes can be used to help calm nerves, focus the mind, boost creativity and transport the listener to a space that’s more comfortable.

In this study, the researchers wanted to understand how sound masking would be received in the work place. The use of natural sounds have the ability to mask ambient sounds that can often distract you from your work. They can also break up the silence of working from home.

So what is the best music for productivity?

This all comes down to personal tastes and the existing environment or more importantly the objective you’re trying to achieve. If it’s ‘relax and chill’ at home whilst you’re working on a client report perhaps something classical or low tempo electronic. If you’re building up for a pitch what about movie soundtracks or video game music, R&B or something inspiring. My track of choice would be Redbone, Come and Get Your Love…for it’s intro to Guardians of the Galaxy just gets me pumped.

This track, for me, helps set the mood no matter what work environment I may physically be in and ultimately (linking back to culture) helps ‘set the tone’ of the work I output and way it is conducted.

As for day to day listening, I was recently having lunch at a local Mexican eatery (Ojo Rojo). Enjoying the soundtrack that was being played the waiter recommended following their Spotify playlist. To which I did and haven’t yet found an alternative playlist which doesn’t keep me focused on the objective. Have a listen and let me know your thoughts.

Ojo Rojo Spotify Playlist

If there are any other tracks or playlists that get your creative juices flowing or mind focussed, whatever the environment let us know in the comments below. You can also follow our own InsightfulUX spotify playlist here.

Update: Check out this awesome music in the workplace infographic which further provides stats around the effects on productivity, morale and income improvements from music in the workplace.

Written by
Chris Newnham

Chris Newnham

Co-Founder & Director
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