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Listening to Music at Work – Is it a Good or Bad Idea?

Music in the workplace is a controversial topic. There are many that say it helps them to concentrate whilst others say it has the opposite effect! Research about music in the workplace studies shows an amazing results. As music becomes increasingly mobile more companies are allowing their employees to decide for themselves; personal headphones allow you to listen to your music whilst your colleague enjoys the peace and quiet of the open office environment.

There is no doubt that music can lift your mood, but can it help; you to be more productive at work? To decide it is important to look at the positives and negatives associated with playing music whilst you work:


Music is uplifting; when you are having a bad day it can quickly make you feel better and capable of taking on the world. In a workplace environment you will find it is often more about the type of music being played rather than whether it is being played or not.

Noisy Space

No matter how powerful the human brain is there are only so many facts that it can ingest at any given time. Many modern businesses prefer to have open plan spaces as this helps collaboration between staff. However, this also creates a large amount of noise.

Every piece of noise needs to be processed by your brain; reducing these sounds to just the music in your headphones will help you to concentrate.


Sometimes your job is repetitive; there is nothing you can do about it but get on with it! However, generally speaking if you are repeating the same task your mind will wander and the quality of your work will suffer. If you listen to music you mind will focus on this. Research has shown that this can improve the quality and speed of your work; you will develop a pattern which allows you to complete each action in time with your music.


It has been suggested and research suggests it is true, that listening to classical music can improve your intelligence. Although the effect is only said to last for a short period it can be particularly beneficial if you are dealing with a difficult task and need a little inspiration!


As with any debate there are downsides to listening to music whilst you work:

Decreased Learning

As already mentioned your brain needs to process everything it can see and hear. The more distractions there are the harder it will be to focus on learning new material. In fact, studies suggest that those who do attempt to learn new things whilst listening to music will frequently muddle their learning. Not even the intelligence improving effects of Mozart can change this fact.

This is because your brain needs to focus to learn new skills; if it is distracted by your favorite music it will only absorb half the information. Whilst this may be enough to get the gist of the process it will leave you vulnerable to obvious mistakes.


It has also been noted that a pair of headphones on your head; whether the music is on or not, sends a message out to your colleagues. Put simply, you are telling everyone not to disturb you.

The problem with this is that it can leave you isolated and unable to either ask for help or offer advice when others need it. If people never see what you are capable of or your willingness to bond; they are unlikely to pursue communication with you.

There are benefits to listening to music while you work. However, it is not something you should do by default as soon as you reach your workspace. Choose your moments wisely to get the greatest benefit from your best tunes.