Monday, December 4, 2017

The Power of Music

I love music. Music can offer an escape, can drum up memories from the past and can be a great inspiration. It’s the soundtrack of our lives. There’s just something really special about it that almost everyone can relate to. That said there’s one setting where music divides people – the office.

Listening to music while you work can be the best or the worst – depending on whom you ask. In an office there’s always at least one person who can’t stand working while music is playing in the background. That can be a problem – especially in the world of open-plan offices. Pondering that problem I looked at some studies related to music and productivity.

Behavioral scientists and management experts have found that listening to music at work can increase productivity. And that’s not all. It also has been proven to improve workplace cultures and upbeat music can increase co-operation between team members. Project management expert Colin Ellis makes an interesting point. Apparently even people who are against music in the workplace, “get in the swing of it” after three weeks or so. Another positive - upbeat music can increase co-operation between team members. The positive effects music can have on people working are vast. Yet I would guess that most offices are not playing music.

One of the most common counter arguments is the claim that people can’t concentrate when music is playing in the background. Whether or not that’s true might differ from person to person, but studies suggest that people are in fact capable of concentrating with background music as we still focus on the most valuable information when we multitask. I agree. (Am listening to Colter Wall's new album as I write this).

In an article in The Harvard Business Review best-selling author and Associate Professor of Leadership and Innovation at Oral Roberts University David Burkus, writes about the fact that many people can’t concentrate when it’s too silent either. It’s why many people prefer working in coffee shops or shared work spaces. It’s all about the right level of background noise.

The solution many people come up with is to wear headphones in the office – either to listen to music, others to drown out the noise of others working around them. But that creates another set of problems as headphones can be a barrier to collaboration. Agreed.

I’m a believer in the power of music. I think that music can actually make you more creative. The solution for the office lies in the set-up of workspaces. There needs to be a space people can access if they want to work in silence and maybe even more importantly without interruption.

The image is one of the most famous advertising visuals from the 1970s - Maxell's Chair Man - see a great backgrounder here.