Adding Music to Your Office the RIGHT Way

Posted: October 12, 2012   /   by

It is a fact of life; everyone likes music. Having employees listen to music at the office also has amazing benefits. But just because that’s the case doesn’t mean that adding music to an office environment is easy or without challenges.

The Benefits

While people like music – it has also been shown that listening to music at work provides some pretty amazing gains in productivity. According to a University of Windsor study, as reported by GigaOm:

“without background music the designers’ quality of work was lowest and it took them more time to complete tasks. With background music, participants reported positive mood change and enhanced perception while working. Plus, the researchers noted that this positive change in mood correlated with increased curiosity — an excellent thing to have when doing creative work.”

The Problems

“Your Music Sucks”  – There is literally nothing worse than having to listen to someones else’s awful music choices all day. Yes, we’re talking to you, Glen from accounting.

“Your Music is Too Loud” – I don’t know about you, but music needs to be loud for me to enjoy it – which if not played through headphones – would probably ruin a coworker’s environment.

“Your Music is Distracting” – For me, there is nothing more distracting to listen to than talk radio. I cannot listen to it without going off into Lalaland and thinking of the topics being discussed.

“Your Music is Divisive” – Depending on what you listen to – either music or talk radio – they can have some pretty divisive content. Foul language, political discussion, and the like can easily offend people.

Some Solutions

  • Headphones – Encouraging employees to listen to music using headphones can solve a lot of the problems that arise with regard to music in the office – especially if you have an open plan space. They allow employees the ability to choose what to listen to (regardless of content), choose the volume, not be distracted by others’ music. One downside of headphones is that they can limit questions and discussion for fear of interrupting.
  • Keep The Volume Low – This one’s easy, just tell your employees to keep the volume down
  • Office Playlist – Creating an office playlist that everyone interested can contribute to is another – more inclusive way – of bringing music into the workplace. It allows you to control the content, volume, and give everyone the ability to contribute something they like to the mix.
  • Music Hours – Perhaps you like the idea of giving employees freedom to choose the music, but feel like music all day long might be a little much. You could think about allowing music in the second half of the day after lunchtime – or whenever works best for your staff.
  • Hire Better Employees – This might sound a little harsh, but you might consider trying to hire people that would be okay listening to someone else’s music every once in a while. No one wants inconsiderate jerks in the office, so hire people that can give and take. And if you have to hire a jerk – get them headphones.

Play it by Ear

When I first thought about this article, I knew that I had to use this pun because it is absolutely true. There are no ‘silver bullet’ answers to complex office issues. You just really have to try them out and adjust to whatever the circumstances give you to work with.

If you want a livelier office atmosphere – and are okay with a bit of distraction and noise, than by all means have louder music.

But if you want focused work done the majority of the time, then you might want to figure out how to best create that atmosphere.

Additional Thoughts

It is kind of funny that the idea that workplace music could even be distracting to other is probably a new phenomenon – and is also probably something that has come about due to the increased number and magnitude of open plan offices. While we often discuss and promote them here, there are alway sadditional thing to consider besides the saving in cost and sq. footage – with music being just one of many.