Music and productivity

Music and productivity

During World War II, the BBC broadcasted upbeat music in factories twice a day to see if it might step up the pace of work and get the military what they needed. It worked. One report stated that the output at a factory increased by 12,5-15%.

Since then, music has started to play an important role in productivity.

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Playing the right music in the office motivates staff.

When you're concentrating, you'll want calmer, more relaxing music. At the end of the day, when you're feeling tired, you'll desire more upbeat music.

One meta-analysis concluded that background music disturbs the reading process and has a small harmful effect on memory, but has a positive impact on emotional reactions and improves achievements in sports.

Music might be beneficial in the workplace, depending on the type of work, the genre of music, your control over the music, and your personality.

The benefits of music

There are two possible ways music might be beneficial while working:

  • It makes us feel good, therefore helping us to work through otherwise tedious tasks.
  • It makes us smarter. The Mozart effect is a well-known example - that listening to a piano sonata composed by a genius can make you perform better.

Some famous composers' work has better cognitive benefits than others. Studies show that Mozart's sonata increased "alpha band" brain waves, which is linked to memory, cognition, and problem-solving.

The "activation theory" is the idea is that people need a certain amount of mental arousal to function effectively.

One 1995 study found that when workers at a large retail organization were allowed to listen to personal stereos for one month, regardless of their choice of music, their performance improved significantly. The reason for improvements in productivity was how relaxed they felt.

Some scientists think that music doesn't help us at all. It's possible that we view the ability to listen to music as a privilege from our employers, and convincing ourselves that we are working harder in turn.

In some contexts, music is actively detrimental, such as problem-solving, while listening to more cognitively demanding music, like jazz. One study found students performed worse in reading-comprehension and maths scores when they did them to music.

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Classical music offers something on a large scale

Very few art forms offer something as big as an orchestra—one hundred people playing music that can last over half an hour.

To start with, try to identify some of the different things you hear.

  • Pick one of the nine Beethoven symphonies, then add to the Western canon: Brahms Second, Tchaikovsky's Sixth, Mahler's Fifth, Bruckner's Seventh, and Shostakovich's Fifth.
  • Or start from the 21st century and work backwards.

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IDEAS

Music and work
With so much of our time being spent at work, and so much of our work being done at computers, music has become inseparable from our day-to-day tasks — a way to “optimize the boring” while looking at screens.

Although there may be detrimental effects of listening to music while working, listening to music in between tasks can boost your mental performance and the ability to concentrate on a task for long periods of time.

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