I have a funny question for you today: in general, do you work while listening to music? If so, do you consider that it helps you in your work, or does it help to distract you from your tasks?
You happen to put headphones on your ears, just to enclose yourself in your bubble, in a pleasant atmosphere. From then on, you have your favorite songs in the background. However, it is not that frequent, because you sometimes need total silence to concentrate as much as possible. To be attentive to what your colleagues say, or even to be able to answer the phone. Besides, you don’t have too much idea about the real impact of music on your productivity.
The fact is that what I have just described is largely the result of a survey just conducted in Canada, which is a division of the recruitment consultancy Robert Half. Here are the highlights:
- A common practice, 71% of Canadians are formally authorized by their employer to listen to music while working. As for the others, they do not know if they have this right, except for 11% of them, for whom it is not allowed (especially for security reasons).
- 3 out of 4. In Canada, 77% of employees who have the right to listen to music at work say they like working in music. Unsurprisingly, millennials – 18-34-year-olds – are the most likely to listen to music while working (87%); follow the Xs – the 35-54-year-olds, up to 73%, and the baby boomers – the 55 years and over -, up to them, only 57%.
- Especially pop. What music is most favorite in Canada? It seems that the most popular style is pop, followed by rock and classical music respectively.
- A plus for productivity, 29% of those who listen to music think it makes them “a lot more” productive, and 32%, “more” productive. Note that roughly a quarter (28%) believe that music does not affect their performance at work. Besides, that only 3% consider that music affects their productivity.
“For many employees, listening to music at work is relaxing and beneficial for their concentration and productivity, especially when working in an intense work environment,” said David King, president of Accountemps in Canada.
Good. You like me, so we often work in music. Nevertheless, are we productive than without music? We have the impression that is for sure but is it verified.
Teresa Lesiuk teaches music therapy at the University of Miami in the United States. In 2005, she wanted to know if music had any impact on employees, and she spent five weeks in Canadian technology start-ups to study fifty employees who spent most of their time riveted on their computer screen, headphones on their ears.
Result? When we listen to the music of our choice, it automatically puts us in a good mood, and therefore in a favorable position to give our 110%. More precisely, this leads to working “quickly and well”: those who listened to music performed their tasks faster than the others, and in doing so, they had better ideas than the others; no more no less.
Perfect, isn’t it? We can, therefore, listen to all the music we want in the context of our daily work, provided, it is understood, that our music does not bother others (neither our foot tapping nor even our uncontrolled whistling). Hmm … Minute, let’s not go too fast. It is that certain conditions must be met to see a beneficial effect on our productivity!
Anneli Haake is a Swedish music psychology consultant. In 2011, his work allowed him to uncover five factors that help determine if given music is a source of concentration or rather of distraction:
- The musical structure. Songs with a relatively complex musical structure, like ” Muffin Man ” by Frank Zappa, are generally more distracting than songs with a simple structure (eg three chords), like ” Bad Habits ” from The Last Shadow Puppets.
- The lyrics. They can be distracting if they require effort for comprehension.
- Listening habits. The more you get used to listening to music while working, the less likely it will be distracting.
- The task started. If it is relatively complex, listening to music can affect our brain’s attention.
- Control over the music. If the music listened to is ever imposed by others, it is likely to distract us. On the other hand, if it is our own choice, it can help us to focus.
The ideal is, therefore, to check when you decide to work in music if the five factors are met. If that’s the case, all is well, you can go. However, if one or more factors are missing, beware, there is a danger that your performance will decrease more than anything else.
By the way, the American actor Charlie Chaplin said in My Life: “Action is music”.