Music in the workplace, pros and cons

April 29, 2016 by norman lebrecht


From Mumsnet’s Justine Roberts column in the FT:

A recent meeting at a music tech giant was augmented by a lively soundtrack which (possibly as a result of my age) I would undoubtedly have found distracting had I worked there every day — both because I would find it difficult to concentrate with all that noise, and because I would be fiercely competitive about wangling my own playlist (dominated by Prince, naturally) on to the system.

On the other hand, a potentially infuriating 40-minute encounter at my bank last week was substantially improved by soothing piped jazz. I found myself humming along quite happily, and was far less bothered by the inertia and incompetence of the staff than I would have been had there been no sound other than the pinging of ATMs, punctuated by occasional interjections of “Computer says no”.

So which is it to be?

exam student headphones

Comments (10)

  1. Chris Walsh says:

    The problem here is that I could only stand it if I’d chosen the music myself. And if other people in the same environment found out who’d picked the music, they’d beat me to death.

    There is a simple answer! iPod and a good set of headphones.

  2. Elizabeth Owen says:

    Can’t stand background/lift music. It’s everywhere and I certainly don’t want it in my bank! Just think of all the tv programmes infested by noise purporting to be music it’s even on the Garden programme poor Monty Don. God forbid they break out the marimba!

  3. Will Duffay says:

    There are no pros about music in the workplace. And anybody who says there are should have a day with my music choices and then see if they still think it’s a good idea.

  4. Ravi Narasimhan says:

    My recent bank visit was marred by bad music and worse commercials from a radio station played over a cheap boombox. This assault is now everywhere in the US. Good earplugs only block so much. The only real defense is a pair of headphones and soundtrack of one’s own – even if it is a recording of white noise .

  5. Cubs Fan says:

    There are many young people who are really uncomfortable in silence. It seems they must have some (usually god-awful) music playing all the time. They can’t even enjoy the great outdoors without some rubbish pounding in their ears. Silence is golden and our world is endlessly noisy.

  6. Robert Holmén says:

    We had a rule where I worked that anyone could turn off or change the office music at any time.

    The end result was no music most of the time.

  7. jaypee says:

    I found this gem in the magazine Wired:

    “Hell,” said Jean-Paul Sartre, “is other people.” I’d qualify that slightly. People are fine; it’s their music that’s hell.

    1. Bruce says:

      Haha. I wouldn’t qualify it at all 🙂

  8. Gerald Martin says:

    There was no office music where I worked for 30 years and for that I am thankful. If it was music that I didn’t like I would have been annoyed. If it was music I did like I would have stopped to listen. In either case I would have been distracted from work.

  9. Alan Poe says:

    I’ve seen a trustworthy study finding baroque kind of music helpful for knowledge work. It’s the tempo, repetitiveness and frequency spectrum that matter, AFAIR.

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