Nowadays, with streaming services like Spotify, Google Play, and Pandora available on a plethora of mobile devices, music lovers have an easy time enjoying tunes everywhere they go, including at the office. While this is all well and good, have you ever stopped to wonder if music is helping your employees, or holding them back?

Research shows that there are plenty of music variables that correlates to productivity levels. Variables such as:

  • The task at hand.
  • How much the task changes as time goes on.
  • The cognitive requirements of the task.

For example, it takes different levels of attention and focus for a task like checking your inbox versus putting together a business proposal. In the case of repetitive tasks, studies have proven that background music provides several boons, including increased efficiency.

When considering the open office layout, this prompts another discussion regarding the effectiveness of music and productivity. It’s no secret that the open office environment can be distracting as employees have conversations about everything from the meaning of life to what they had for breakfast, as well as the distraction of actual work being done. Between these two extremes is the individual office worker, needing to hunker down, tune out everybody, and get work done. In this case, headphones are a blessing that can keep distractions, like noise and office chatter, to a minimum. Listening to music in this scenario helps workers focus on their goals and be productive.

While the office worker has plenty of benefits to yield from listening to music during a mundane, boring task, someone who is trying to focus on something complex might not feel the same way. As you can imagine, music can actually be a distraction when songs with lyrics are involved. This is due to the fact that, when someone listens to a new track for the first time, their first instinct is to listen to the lyrics, and thus, they will focus on that rather than the task at hand. Studies show that tasks involving parts of the brain that don’t deal with verbal language can benefit from lyrical songs, but other tasks might prove more manageable with instrumental music.

Every worker has different musical preferences, so picking a surefire productivity playlist for the entire office will be challenging. Some workers might not be bothered by lyrics, while others are driven insane by the prospect of focusing on two things at once. Overall, music can be a great way to enhance productivity, so give your employees the ability to listen to what they like and your company will surely benefit.

What kind of music do you prefer to listen to while working? Share your mixtape with us in the comments.