Historically, there has been much debate about whether playing music at work is a positive influence or a distraction that reduces work rate and efficiency. Now, though, a study of more than 2,000 UK workers has revealed that in excess of 50% of workers believe that listening to music at work can improve their wellbeing and increase their productivity. The survey also analysed data from Spotify to examine how a wide spectrum of workers, including those undertaking manual work and those employed in construction, interact with music while they’re at work.

The study found that one half of employees reported listening to music while working more now than they did pre-pandemic, although some of that may be due to longer periods of working from home. That said, office workers felt that music at work definitely enhanced their mood and their effectiveness, and the results were consistent from across a range of different sectors, such as construction, property, design, creative arts, engineering, manufacturing, finance, banking, accountancy and healthcare.

Positive signs
Interestingly, 54% of the respondents said that listening to music at work helped to improve their mental health and happiness, with 56% confirming that it lifted their general mood and 66% claiming that it increased their ability to focus and work more quickly. A significant number (44% of males and 42% of females) also attributed a reduction in boredom to having music playing.

A generational thing?
The benefits of music were most apparent in younger people, with the overwhelming majority of those aged between 18 and 24 – 95% – saying that music helped them maintain their focus and work faster. This reduced to 67% in the 35 to 44 age range, to 25% in those aged between 25 and 35 and to just 12% in the 55 and above range.

Choose your genre
Predictably perhaps, pop music proved to be the most popular genre across the board, with rock and then classical music following up, although rock came out top with construction workers. The healthcare sector was the only one where workers preferred to listen to music out loud, with all other respondents favouring headphones. In an open-plan office setting, gaining consensus on what to play and when can be tricky, which is potentially why personal headphones are preferred, but if agreement can be reached then music can also bring colleagues together and create a feeling of teamwork.

For Rosa dos Santos, owner of Exact Sourcing, music can be a very positive addition to the office environment. ‘Here at Exact we are huge fans of music at work,’ comments Rosa. ‘As well as lightening the mood and creating a pleasant ambience, we’ve found that having music play has also increased our focus and effectiveness. Working in complete silence can actually be distracting and can result in your mind wandering, while background music can help you concentrate. We like to think that our offices are relaxed environments where our colleagues enjoy coming to work, and we feel that music can contribute to that. And as a result we regularly have conversations with our clients encouraging them to consider allowing music within their offices to see what a difference it can make.’

Exact Sourcing is a recruitment agency in Cambridge and Newmarket. If you’re looking to grow your team and would welcome some professional insight, please contact us for a chat.