Whistle While You Work: Can Music In The Workplace Increase Productivity?

mindset Dec 07, 2022
Hand holding headphones to listen to music

Music in the Workplace

Reduced anxiety, brain stimulation, decreased fatigue, and energy boosts. You may be wondering what drug is that and where can you sign up. You’ll be pleased to know, it’s free and it’s everywhere. It’s music. Whether you listen with headphones, through your Alexa in the corner of the kitchen, or blare it through the car radio on the way to work.

Music is music, and it has the ability to change our mood. It’s structural, mathematical, physiological, and psychological. Really it’s anything you want it to be.

A 2019 survey showed that 68% of adults between 18-34 listen to music every single day.  It’s a standard part of our everyday lives for 7 out of 10 of us, and for some people music is a form of therapy to get through the day. 87% of people said music provided them with enjoyment and happiness during the pandemic.

In times of disconnection and loneliness music provided a channel for people to express and feel their emotions, as the great Hans Christian Andersen once said where words fail, music speaks.

The many physical benefits of music, as mentioned at the beginning of this article are just as powerful as the mental benefits. One study showed that slow or meditative music can lower heart rate and cause muscles to relax,  and alternatively attention levels increased with more upbeat music.

 It’s clear to see that music can evoke these physiological changes within us, just as a treatment or drug, so perhaps it could be used as a tool to enhance and improve our everyday lives?

The idea of music in the workplace isn’t a new concept, and in fact dates back to the 1930’s during World War Two. Music While You Work programme was launched by the BBC during the dark and difficult times of World War Two, a time when most men were off fighting for their country.

Picture the standard early 20th century woman. More than likely she’s married, raising children, cleaning the house, making the dinner. Now think of these women during World War Two, they now became the face of the workforce. Interest began to rise on how to engage these women, and other male workers within their jobs during a time of such gloom and despair.

Essentially twice a day music was played in factories in an attempt to increase productivity and boost morale. Interestingly in the hour following the music broadcast, productivity levels increased by 15%.

More recent studies have shown that 9 out of 10 workers perform better when listening to music and 88% produce a higher standard of work. But why does music work so well in the workplace, how does a simple melody improve work rate?

Music & Stress

Burnout is sharply on the rise, with 52% of all workers experiencing high levels of it in 2021. Stressed employees find it harder to concentrate, lack motivation, and are more likely to quit.Recent research from a 2022 study using a sample of Danish employees, assessed the stress levels of staff, after listening to music for 30 days in work.

Essentially, for ten minutes a day staff for allowed to freely choose what music they listened too for ten minutes. The results of which showed that self perceived stress of staff decreased by almost 40% after the 30 days.


Music & Belonging

You know that feeling when you’re out with your friends, at a busy bar and a 90s song comes on and you all start tapping your feet and mumbling the lyrics. It’s that feeling of unity, being brought together in a particular moment, that only music can give you.

Or at a concert, thousands of people of different ages, from different places, all brought together for the sole love of music.

A 2021 study conducted across workplaces in Switzerland explored this phenomenon of belonging by music. 10 minute live performances were offered in three different offices over a period of three months. Interestingly, employees reported feeling a higher sense of inclusion and belonging with colleagues as this time away from the desk allowed them to connect with new people which improved collaborations and working relationships.


Maintaining focus in todays workplaces has proven challenging, but thankfully music can be used an effective tool to manage this. As the workplace becomes more open and collaborative than ever, employees need to know their wellbeing and creativity are valued and respected.



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