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Music in the workplace: a productivity booster or a big distraction?

  • Publish Date: Posted 3 months ago
  • Author:by MERJE

​We all understand the power of music and its ability to bring us together while evoking a vast range of emotions and feelings. That’s why June 21stis devoted to World Music Day.

World Music Day encourages people to celebrate the joy of sound by playing music in their neighbourhoods or in public spaces and parks.

On this day, we wanted to dig deeper into the debate that comes up time and time again – should workplaces be open to playing music?

While many people swear by music as a helpful aid for getting through tasks, others find it harder to concentrate. Some might say that wearing headphones to drown out general office noise makes them more productive, but this can have the adverse effect of cutting people off from the rest of their team and losing the natural exchange of ideas.

The topic has likely come up again in recent times as a result of the pandemic, with people increasingly working from home, enjoying more autonomy and taking the opportunity to switch the radio on while they work.

So, what are the true benefits and drawbacks of listening to music in the office? Let’s take a look.

Motivational powers

Research suggests that music can activate reward centres in the brain. This means that rewarding yourself with your favourite tunes can provide the motivation you need to learn new information.

If you do find music to be distracting while you work, listening to your preferred songs during breaks can also motivate you to try that bit harder afterwards.

Mood boosting

Music can help to reduce stress and promote a more positive outlook. In fact, studies show that a good mood generally improves learning outcomes.

If you have more success when working and getting to grips with new skills and resources, you’ll be more likely to feel good, as well as more confident. Work, as we know, can be stressful at times and if you ever feel overwhelmed, the act of putting on music can help you to relax and be more efficient and productive.

Improves focus

According to media websiteCNET, ambient and classical music, as well as the sounds of nature, can help people to learn and focus better, which can then help the brain to absorb and interpret new information more easily.

The brain processes the information it receives from the world around you by separating it into smaller segments. Research has found evidence to suggest that music can engage your brain and train it to pay increased attention.

Therefore, if you struggle to make sense of new or unfamiliar information, listening to music could make this process easier.

Sharpens memory

Research has shown that listening to music can improve mental alertness and memory, according to The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

This is because music helps stimulate your brain, in much the same way as exercise is good for the body. The more you exercise your muscles, the stronger they become, so it stands to reason that treating your brain to a thorough cognitive workout could help strengthen it in a similar way.


For those people who don’t find music useful for completing tasks which command high levels of concentration, here are some possible reasons why.

Unwelcome distraction

An important part of music lies in its power to distract and this can be a positive if you’re trying to block out the world around you and get on with the task in hand.

However, if you’re attempting a particularly difficult project, then music which is too fast or loud could intrude upon your thoughts, impeding your process and that of those around you.

Hinders memory

Working memory refers to information which is used for learning and other cognitive tasks which are linked to working practices. You may use it to recall items on a list, problem-solving and sequences.

Research suggests that listening to music can reduce working memory capacity. This means that if you already find it difficult to juggle and make sense of multiple facets of information, listening to music could make this even more challenging for you.

Reduces understanding

Certain types or genres of music, including fast or loud songs or those paired with lyrics, can make it more difficult to understand and absorb reading material. Whether you’re looking at your screen for the evening in order to review a presentation or crunching data to inform a report, classical music with a slow rhythm may prove to be the preferred option.


The fact of the matter is, the benefits and drawbacks of listening to music while you work will affect everyone differently. It may provide comforting background noise and have been shown to improve both productivity and cognitive performance in some cases, but for others it is a big distraction.

If you are on the fence about tuning in to the radio, it can be worth trialling it for a short period of time to see how the office reacts and if it is a motivating tool or too much of a disruption.

If you would like to discuss this or any of the topics covered in our articles, please get in touch: info@merje.com