How do you feel about music in the office? Is it a good way to keep people motivated, or an annoyance that affects your work?
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you might have noticed that I like to link to unusual songs on YouTube. Perhaps that’s why the topic of music in the office came up in conversation; maybe people wanted to escape my peculiar taste in auditory entertainment, or it may just be because today is #WorldMusicDay
Years ago I had to interview a psychologist who’s an expert in addiction and gambling – the kind of guy that gets quoted in news stories all the time. He told me that the reason fruit machines have all that fast-paced bleepy bloopy music is because it affects gamblers’ emotions. Basically, whenever we hear music it does something to us, even if we don’t like the tune.
When you look further into music and psychology, you find all sorts of weird information. For example ‘exciting’ genres like pop and rock might help people exercise for longer or aid them in repetitive manual work, but they might be bad for concentration and reading. On the other hand some calming music, like ambient or soft classical, may help people with those more mentally demanding tasks.
Then, like in the TED talk below, you get into thinking about music not as a tune but a collection of sounds. That’s where things get more peculiar, with the idea that birdsong can help productivity in open plan offices and the wrong sound in a shop can affect sales.
It seems like there are two key points underlying all of this:
1. People in offices should be able listen to music
2. They should not have to listen to someone else’s tunes
2b. Bosses should hand out headphones to employees
Why wouldn’t office managers want staff to wear headphones? Hell, why wouldn’t they actually make mixtapes for workers, you know like in sixth form when I made one for Tara and then she ignored me and ohgodimsostupidandishouldneverhavedonethat.
I think every office should encourage its staff to bring in their own music and to experiment to see how it affects their work. You could even turn it into a little exercise where people discuss their favourite tunes and see how colleagues get on with them. (You don’t want the music to kill the art of conversation.)
Just remember that if you’re going to have headphones, you’ll need a system to show when people are busy and can’t be disturbed. A few years ago we wrote about having little flags on desks; if the flag is down, you can tap the person on the shoulder to speak them. If it’s up, best leave them alone. #Simples.
What kind of music would you listen to and why?