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The Economics of Why you Should Listening to Music at Work

Nearly half of all workers suffer from moderate to severe stress while on the job, according to a survey – and 66 percent of employees report that they have difficulty focusing on tasks at work because of stress. Stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization and it costs US businesses up to $300 billion a year.

As we know there are ways to reduce stress’s daunting, pervasive impact on human lives and companies’ bottom line. A survey of 2,500 employees by ComPsych, a provider of employee assistance programs (EAPs), highlights the problem –in addition to the challenges related to focus at work, employees also said that stress was responsible for errors and/or missed deadlines (21 percent), trouble getting along with co-workers/superiors (15.5 percent), missed days (14.9 percent) and lateness (14.4 percent).

I like to tell myself that my life is full—not busy. Busy sounds scattered to me, whereas full—well it sounds just full. However, full also means that there is no more room for margin – for more goodness or error – and that is not what I want for my day or week either. What I am always on the hunt for is a way to complete the work I need to do while leaving some margin for those extras that arise – sometimes it may be a problem that needs to be fixed but it  and more efficient in what I do, so I can create the margin required for the unexpected, hopefully some extra fun in the week. I passionately believe music can be used to boost your productivity, and generate more margin in your life.

The music industry believes they have proof that you should listen to music while you work. In a survey commissioned by the UK licensing organizations PPL and PRS for Music, 77 percent of surveyed businesses say playing music in the workplace increases staff morale and improves the atmosphere. The results seemed to be greater productivity. However a summary of recent research from Taiwan shows while some background music can increase worker satisfaction and productivity, music with lyrics could have significant negative effects on concentration and attention. The study concluded that music without lyrics is preferable, as lyrics are likely to reduce worker attention and performance.

A 2010 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found employees with moderate sleep problems cost their companies about $2,500 in lost productivity a year. This study has also shown that listening to soft, slow (about 60 beats per minute) music like jazz or classical can improve the quality and duration of sleep, as well as improve functioning the next day. Research in business seems to also support such a claim. For example, a trial where 75 out of 256 workers at a large retail company were issued with personal stereos to wear at work for four weeks showed a 10 percent increase in productivity for the headphone wearers. Other similar research conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois found a 6.3 percent increase when compared with the no music control group.

Research seems to be leading us to the following questions: 

  • If music improves your mood then will your productivity also be improved?
  • If we accept that music does increase productivity, does it matter what types of music we listen to? Does it matter how long and at what time?
  • Does all music have the same effect or are certain types better in certain circumstances?

I believe the answers to these questions will be personal and powerful. There is no question that our individual reactions will vary, however, there is no doubt in my mind and experience that key indicators, with the right analysis, and the right music, can be identified to ensure your personal best results.