Monday Start-Up: Music at Work and the Important Role it Plays

by Rachel Yeomans | September 10th, 2012   
Tagged as: ,

A colleague recently asked me how I can get so much work done working from home three days a week (well, technically five if you include the weekends). My answer: Noise. Many people tell me that they need complete silence in order to be productive. I am the exact opposite. When I was in college, I was the girl with the headphones on when studying in the library. However, news has been circulating as of late that may explain why I do need that constant stream of sound while I click and clack my keyboard day and night.

On August 10th, Brainpickings published a brief article, The Science of How Music Enchants the Brain, Animated showcasing a video from AsapSCIENCE. The video illustrates how music actually releases dopamine in the brain (dopamine brings out feelings of happiness, love, etc.). Here’s the video:

Amisha Padnani of New York Times wrote an article entitled The Power of Music, Tapped In a Cubiclein that Sunday’s paper (I guess music was just “in the air” that week – yes, I went there). Padnani had similar findings to the Brainpickings post – dopamine was again highlighted. One of Padnani’s expert sources was Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, who is researching how music affects workplace performance. And lo and behold, one of Lesiuk’s studies revealed that people who listened to music at work completed tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas versus people who didn’t listen to music. The article didn’t state the details of the study nor how many people were involved and in what kinds of work environments, but I took it as a good sign. Or rather, I now feel I have ammunition when someone says to me that it’s rude to have headphones on at the office.

woman on computer with headphones Monday Start Up: Music at Work and the Important Role it Plays

Personally, I have a pretty regular routine to make sure there is always some sort of noise going on the background while I work. And it can’t be the same noise throughout the day – that would drive me just as crazy as silence. In the mornings, I listen to WNYC for the news. When I commute to work twice a week, I listen to podcasts (my favorites are Tech News Today, On the Media and The Tobolowsky Files). In the afternoon I switch to Pandora for music and listen to that through the evening. I usually listen to a total of two to three Pandora stations total – in the afternoon I listen to a more soothing station like Melody Gardot or I’ll listen to jazz through my iTunes. In the afternoon and early evening I switch to either the Mumford and Sons Pandora station or Florence and the Machines. During my “evening shift”, I cuddle up with my laptop and work while watching TV or a movie in the background (regulars include Spaced, Dr. Who, Sherlock and pretty much anything from Masterpiece Theatre).

And yes, occasionally I do swap my televised noise for sounds of actual conversation or live entertainment – thankfully that noise is not background for work. Much to the surprise of many of those who know me, I don’t work all the time.