Songs in the Key of Work

listening to music at workIf you take a tour of any NFL locker room before the players get down to business, you’ll be greeted by blaring music and a lot of players wearing headphones. Chances are the music will be mostly a mixture of rap and country and western. Those are the vibes that professional linemen, receivers, running backs and d-backs find most suitable for getting them pumped up to do their jobs.

But how about in your workplace? What’s the best music – if any – for your audible backdrop?

Don’t worry, be happy

If you’re in a factory setting, there is scientific research that says lively, upbeat music increases productivity. The study looked at workplaces where employees were involved in a lot of repetitive work, as in assembly lines. The music boosted productivity even when it was competing with machine noises.

I know people who have supervised assembly line operations and back in the days of boom boxes, about half the workers brought their own into work and played the music they most enjoyed. Of course, if a fan of R&B was working right next to a devotee of C&W, it didn’t make for the most congenial working conditions. Management needed to pipe in music and ask people to leave their boom boxes at home.

Mozart’s Office Suite

Classical music has been often found to be good for the brain in work and study situations. In one study, radiologists listened to Baroque music in their reading room and they reported generally positive results and none said the music lowered their mood.

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, recommends classical music and has a long forum discussion going on his website. At one point, I think he even offered a CD of Baroque music selected specifically for the way it enhanced thinking. Allen’s advice is to look for classical music that has a tempo of about 60 beats per minute.

Ambient music and noise

Providing a low level of music can help create a good working atmosphere. Generally, the idea of having some level of music in the background is that it keeps your brain engaged on a basic level. Businesses have been using low-level ambient music for years.

Brian Eno developed his Music for Airports recording back in the 1970s and it’s still available. Today, as more employees have strong video game backgrounds, those soundtracks and electronica may start to fill the background music niche. Also, white or some other shade of noise is great to mask sounds that can be distractions at work.

For me, it’s classical music. However, a recent green room discussion before an appearance on Fox and Friends revealed widely varying tastes and I seemed to be outnumbered. Overall, Queen’s We Will Rock You got the nod.

It may be a great tune for getting the energy up before going on a television show, but looping it at work probably isn’t such a good idea…

What music best enhances your productivity?

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