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Did you know that each year businesses in the UK pay thousands of pounds to the Performing Right Society so that their employees can listen to music in the office? But don't worry if you listen using headphones because that's free. It's an easy solution to the divide between workers who can't get through the day without a blast of something upbeat, and those for whom silence is golden and should stay that way - or is it?
Studies about the way music can impact on your brain have been going on since the 1950s and neuromusicology - yes that's a thing - has shown the pathways that music can take as it enters the ears and then lights up areas of the brain used for cognitive function. In fact, most studies seem to agree that music can make you happier, more creative and productive at work. So let's turn up the radio, right?
Not necessarily. For example, music with lyrics is generally felt to be a distraction - unless you're engaged in a boring and repetitive task in which case the lyric content can help take your mind off it. In a 1994 study on heart surgeons it was concluded that they performed better when listening to music, while research on software developers in 2005 showed that their efficiency, quality of work and mood all improved when they had something upbeat to listen to.
It seems that we may need to re-calibrate the way we think about music and start regarding it as an ambient noise, using it to block out noisy printers and audible conversation, the number one most annoying and distracting sound in the office. Of course, it's all about finding a happy medium and choosing ambient music that can influence the mood and creativity of everyone in the office.
So what kind of music works best? We know heart surgeons respond to the stirring strains of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and that the gentle trickle of a waterfall or rustling leaves can improve concentration and cognitive function. If you want to boost your energy and get an emotional high, then epic music - think Star Wars or Indiana Jones - might motivate you, while some people swear that the music from SimCity helps them chew through their workload with ease.
Get the balance right, and you can reduce stress and unlock some hidden creativity and productivity whilst sat at your office desk. So, nominate an Office DJ for the day and see where their beats take you or simply stick in the headphones and go it alone whilst carrying out the most mundane of tasks!
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