Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / FEB. 24, 2014
version 6, draft 6

Does Music Have Both Positive And Negative Effects on Work Productivity?


Using music for productivity is finding more support in scientific research. While music is used to relax and have fun, there are more uses available to freelancers and business owners. Understanding the ways music can detract, or add to employee performance can increase productivity from each of these groups.

At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, jazz pianists had their brains scanned while playing. Researchers observed that the interaction taking place in the brain were in the language regions. These regions showed cell reactions that were mimicking a conversation. The findings implicate potential uses for writers, whose work is also dependent on interaction taking place in these brain regions.

A poll of over 2,000 staff and customers was conducted with the assistance of research agency RED. The poll concluded that 98% of employees believed music would assist in improving levels of motivation and productivity. In addition, the staff members believed employee moods would be lifted. And 99% of those polled, said that customers would be in better moods when music was played in the building.

The findings were similar from a customer perspective. Nearly two-thirds of the customers polled said they were more relaxed when music was played.  Increasing the comfort level of customers is an aim of many business owners who realize that the more attracted a consumer is to an environment, the longer they will stay and the more likely they are to purchase something in that time. Nearly half of those same customers agreed, claiming that they were more likely to purchase during holiday season, because the music made them feel more festive.

In terms of brain chemistry, harmonious sounds are responsible for the release of endorphins like dopamine. Dr. Amit Sood, a physician and expert in integrative medicine, compares the release of dopamine to the reward received when eating something delicious and when  experiencing more sensations which are found pleasurable and engaging. Sood believes music helps us to focus by making us more aware, more present, in these moments of pleasure or engagement.

Teresa Lesiuk works at the University of Miami and studies the ways work performances are affected by music.  In one such study, she discovered that employees were enjoying the music and completing tasks faster. The group of employees who did not use music, finished tasks at slower rates. Lesiuk found a relationship between the playing of music, the joy received and a rise in productivity.  Her findings provide more substantial support to the thoughts of Dr. Sood, who suggested the same was true.

Other studies suggest that for detailed tasks, music may have a different relationship. Consider the research conducted by experts at the University of Wales Institute in 2010. In that case, adults were tested in the areas of memory and learning. In the worlds of entrepreneur and employee performance, these two concepts are extremely important; workers must adapt quickly, learning new information and putting it to effect immediately afterward.

This study showed that both these areas benefited in response to music. In another area of the same study, adults listened to a series of sounds and responded by repeating them. The study tested whether these groups would repeat the words with accuracy and in the specific orders that they were originally shared. Here, researches drew the conclusion that music decreases the likelihood that you will remember something learned.

Altogether these findings indicate that for cognitively demanding tasks, which require the absorption of new information, people are better off abstaining from music. Yet, they will likely perform repetitive and creative tasks quickly because of mood improvement. And customers may be positively affected by music as well. Knowing the specific ways that music can improve or detract from your work performance is invaluable to those who would like to increase efficiency.

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