Research says that our bodies and minds respond differently to different types of music, and at the office this is extremely important.
What do organizations and managers need to consider when creating policies around music in the work place?
- Audience – Who will be listening?
- Physical Structure of the Space – Size of the space
- Design of the office – Acoustics, types of partitions
- Company Culture – What music aligns with the beliefs and behaviours your company encourages?
- Goals – What tasks are being done? What do you want your listeners to achieve?
- Regulations for Noise Levels – Health & Safety
Music can enhance the atmosphere and productivity of a work environment. It can enhance or inhibit what you are trying to achieve, such as: employee morale, productivity, relaxation and collaboration.
Depending on the tasks that are required to be done, as well as individual preferences, research suggests that listening to certain types of music can improve outcomes.
Music Designed for Comprehension
- Studies suggest that non-lyrical or no music is better while studying or taking a test to ensure concentration. 
Music Designed for Memory
- A quieter environment is suggested for those trying to memorize content.
- “When students were played music while recalling a list of consonants in their presentation order, they remembered fewer items than when they performed the same task in a quiet environment. It was also found that musical preferences had no bearing on how much the volunteers were able to recall.” Dr. Nick Perham 
Music Designed for Focus
- Play music that is familiar to your employees. When music is new or unfamiliar, your brain is inclined to focus on what will come next. 
Music Designed for Relaxation
- Slow, stable tempo, absence of percussive and accented rhythms, low volume level and soft dynamics, connected melodies, gentle timber and simple harmonic or chord progressions are suggested to create a relaxing environment. 
Music Designed for Productivity
- For tasks that do not require a lot of cognitive resources, such as monotonous tasks (i.e. filing, sorting), music can be very helpful to increase efficiency. When the task is clearly defined and is repetitive in nature, the research seems to suggest that music is useful. 
- Research gained from a study with 56 individuals (male = 41, female = 15) found that positive affect and quality-of-work were lowest with no music, while the time spent completing a task was longest when music was removed. Narrative responses revealed that listening to music resulted in a positive mood change and enhanced perception on design while working. 
- One study showed 65% of business owners found that music made their employees more productive, while 40% believed that playing music actually increased their sales. 
- Music with a dissonant tone (minor key) was found to have no impact on productivity, while music in the major mode had different results: “Subjects hearing BGM (background music) achieved greater productivity when BGM was in the major mode.” 
Music Designed to Enhance Conversations
- “Conversations taking place in the presence of background music (BGM) were rated as more satisfying on the Interpersonal Communication Satisfaction Inventory. Major mode BGM elicited higher ratings of satisfaction with communication than did minor mode BGM.” 
Business owners and managers should consider all the above research, but also do some of their own research:
- Ask their employees what they would prefer
- Ask the people visiting to let them know what they think about the music
- Monitor KPI’s to see how music is affecting the performance of tasks.
- Determine the regulations that need to be considered – i.e. health & safety