Listening to Music While You Work

Several studies have tested out an idea known as the "Mozart effect," which is a correlation between listening to classical music and improved performance at work or in school. But as many researchers have discovered, listening to any kind of music while you work can be just the boost you need to get through a tough assignment.

A 1999 study in the Journal of Music Therapy found that listening to your favorite music helps lower your inner tension, which is good for focusing on simple tasks or assignments. This applied even to surgeons at work in the operating room. British researcher Dr. Emma Gray also found that more upbeat music is excellent for stimulating our sense of creativity. But at the same time, a 2010 study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology came to the conclusion that music in the workplace can hinder our performance if we overdo it.

To stay productive, here are some simple rules to follow when playing music at the workplace.

1. Keep the volume to a safe level. Whether it's classical music or the latest pop song, your enjoyment of music shouldn't become a problem in the workplace. Find a suitable volume where you can listen and enjoy your music without it blaring over into the next office or cubicle.

2. Listen to more music before you get started. According to British researcher Nick Perham, the right music can put us in a better state of mind for work, even if we don't listen to any songs while we're actually working. Going through a playlist of your favorite or most inspiring songs can bring you the mental and emotional stimulation you need for getting the job done well.

3. Don't shut out your coworkers. In an emergency or when faced with a workplace problem, communication is key. That means keeping your ears open to respond to a coworker's question or a call from your manager. They shouldn't have to shout over the music to make themselves heard. Your attention to the job always takes priority over what's streaming through your earphones at the moment.

4. Don't sing along. As much as you might like that one song, you still need to be aware of where you are when you're listening to it. Not only would singing along be distracting to your colleagues, but you'll also get a reputation for not taking your work seriously. Save the sing-along for when you're commuting in your car or back at home.

Image by David Goehring on Flickr