Can music improve work productivity?

Music is inescapable these days. Much like the urban myth about rats, in London you’re never more than a few feet away from some agonisingly catchy song, whether it’s from your shower radio or the annoying hissing sound coming from the headphones next to you on the Tube. But increasingly more so nowadays, music is finding its way into the one place we thought we were safe – the workplace.


music at work


According to a survey commissioned by the UK licensing organisations PPL and PRS for Music, 77% of surveyed businesses agree that playing music in the workplace increases staff morale and improves atmosphere.


In fact this theory has been popular since the industrial age when singers and orchestras would be brought in to workplaces to improve morale and break the cycle of repetitive labour. 

 music at work


In the 1940s, radio was introduced to the workplace, playing music with the factory worker in mind. Of the factories that took up the initiative, some reported a 20% increase in productivity having introduced radio.


Music streaming apps like Spotify and Sonos mean that almost any song we like is available at our fingertips – a particularly scary thought if you happen to work with someone with a not-so-secret love of Scottish Pirate Metal (yes, that’s a legitimate thing).


Now, I love music in the office as much as the next person but I definitely think there’s a time and a place for it. You wouldn’t, for instance, want to be in the middle of a tense situation, only to have the nasal sounds of Drake stopping any chance you had of maintaining your own sanity. Or imagine, if you will, the thought of being told that a fellow co-worker had mistakenly put two sugars in your tea, whilst the mocking, sultry tones of Coldplay rang overhead. That’s just unthinkable.

So when and what sort of music should/n’t be played in the office?

Here’s my definitive guide on the best and worst music choices for productivity in the workplace:


Know your audience:


Whilst having a shared and open office environment should be encouraged, you still need to be aware that you’re not the only person in the room (coincidentally a good tip for life in general). A shared playlist is a good way to get around this so that no one feels like they’re tipping the boat in one direction (hopefully not towards One Direction) and throwing everyone off kilter. Examples of some never-fail artists include: All Saints, Mariah Carey and Beyonce.

music at work infographic


NEVER let the playlist stop mid-song:


There’s nothing worse than being so engrossed in your work with everything going to plan, only to have it ripped away from you in a moment of poor internet connection and sheer confusion at the loss of that great Pharrell song you’re partly sick of. Sort out your Wi-Fi before it’s too late.

Radio stations are your friends:


You’re never going to hate the radio stations, you’ll just mildly dislike them as you would an aunt on Christmas day. Befriend them with some wine and company and they’ll be your best friend. Particular TN favourites include: Kisstory, Heart and Capital. Don’t hate them because you ain’t them.


When is silence a virtue?


As great as music is, you should always know when to tone it down. Examples include phone calls, meetings, genuine national moments of silence and any time when you’re talking about lunch. There’s just not enough Adele in the world for that.

So what’s the happy medium?


Although the music most conducive to productivity nowadays is considered to be classical, I think this is an ageing opinion. Music is a shared experience and as such, it’s about the social aspect. If you can find that perfect place between happy and sad, upbeat and thoughtful and cheesy and timeless then you’re doing something right. Embrace the rhythm and keep on working!


At Take Note we listen to music most of the day, we find it makes us more productive, except of course when we are transcribing or talking about lunch. We take both very seriously.


Also on the blog:


icon_notetaking_active Can subtitles make you smarter?

icon_notetaking_active Why your podcast needs transcription