Should You Listen To Music at Work? (With Tips)

Updated October 31, 2023

Many people use listening to music as a tool to improve their mood and focus. It can make you more productive, motivated and happy, which can translate to many benefits in the workplace. If you want to listen to music at work, you may want to learn about the benefits and drawbacks that you could experience.

In this article, we cover the pros and cons of listening to music at work and share tips for safely and effectively incorporating music into the workplace.

Pros of listening to music at work

Here are some positive aspects of listening to music at work:

Listening to music at work may increase employee happiness

Listening to music you enjoy can improve your mood and make you feel happier. Listening to music at work may increase your overall happiness regardless of what you're doing. Music can engage your brain when completing repetitive tasks, providing you with more satisfaction and less burnout. This can improve your attitude about work and could even improve your productivity.

Related: Jobs for Music Lovers: 15 Jobs Where You Can Make, Work With and Listen to Music

Listening to music might help lower stress levels

Music can influence the emotions we feel, and this can make music a useful stress management tool. Steady, soothing music may reduce your pulse rate, lower your blood pressure and decrease the level of stress hormones your body produces. If you get stressed at work, listening to calming music can help you relax and focus on what you need to get done.

Music aids memory retention

Music's ability to help you decompress and feel less stressed can also make it a useful way to promote information retention. Often, stress makes it harder to remember information and learn new things. By reducing stress, music may be able to help you memorize and recall key information accurately.

You may feel more motivated while listening to music

Music can reduce fatigue by offering variety and stimulation during a task. Because there may be a connection between the motor neurons and the auditory neurons in your brain, audio stimulation from music might also increase physical stimulation for jobs that involve physical labor. This can increase your motivation and make it more likely that you complete your work on time. You can also listen to music with inspirational lyrics to help you feel especially motivated and encouraged.

Fast or upbeat music can provide a rhythm for working

Depending on the work you do, music can provide a sense of rhythm for completing your daily duties. Just as slow and soothing music and may reduce your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, upbeat music with a fast pace can trigger alertness, open your airways and prime your muscles for movement. Listening to dance music or a video game soundtrack may help you move quicker and more accurately when completing workplace tasks.

Related: The 8 Best Types of Music for Work Productivity

Cons of listening to music at work

These are some possible negative aspects of listening to music at work:

Loud music could disrupt others

As with anything in the workplace, what one team member enjoys won't always work for everyone. Even when staff members wear headphones or earbuds, it's possible to play music too loudly so it can disrupt others. To avoid distracting your team members, listen to workplace-appropriate music and select a low volume level that only you can hear.

Related: 5 Steps for Increasing Creativity in the Workplace

Music with lyrics may interrupt learning

Though music can be beneficial in many situations, it may also be possible for music to hinder workplace productivity. If your job requires you to do a lot of reading or writing, for example, music with lyrics could disrupt the information processing in your brain. It may be much harder to process and retain additional information when you are also trying to listen to lyrics at the same time.

Listening to music you haven't heard before may have this effect as well. Because it's new to you, your brain may pay it too much attention and make it harder to focus. If this happens to you, consider listening to your favorite music rather than looking for new tracks. You can also switch to nature sounds, instrumental soundtracks or classical music.

Listening to music could distract you or pose a safety hazard

If employees listen to music while they work, they could miss a phone call or not hear a colleague who needs their attention. This is especially true if they use earbuds or noise-canceling headphones. A staff member listening to music through headphones may not hear noises meant to alert them to evacuate or find safety, such as a fire alarm or extreme weather alert. This can be especially dangerous for those who aren't always working around others. To prevent this, keep your volume low and consider only wearing one earbud at a time. You can also compensate for wearing headphones by paying attention to visual cues in your environment.

Dancing, tapping and lip singing can distract your colleagues

Besides the audible distraction of loud music from speakers or headphones, staff listening to music may also cause visual distraction. Many who choose to listen to music respond with movements like dancing, tapping their feet and lip singing. Lip singing or mouthing along with the lyrics in a song, may cause a coworker to think that you're trying to have a conversation with them, disrupting both of your work responsibilities. Limiting visual distractions is part of being a respectful coworker, so try to choose music that doesn't tempt you to dance or sing.

Related: 13 Fun Perks To Offer Employees in the Workplace

Tips for staying productive while you listen to music at work

Here are some helpful tips for listening to music at work:

  • Use headphones or earbuds. In some workplace environments, you and your team members may choose to listen to music using speakers. Unless everyone agrees to this, listen to your personal music through earbuds or headphones so you don't disturb others.

  • Protect your ears. Listening to loud music for long periods of time can harm your ears, so keep it low to protect your health and avoid disrupting your team members.

  • Consider investing in wireless headphones. Choosing a wireless alternative may help you avoid accidentally unplugging your listening device and disrupting the office. Wireless earbuds can also help to keep your workspace tidy by eliminating extra clutter from cords.

  • Take a break from your music. Headphones and earbuds can strain your ears and neck muscles. When you take a break from your work, take a break from the music as well.

  • Avoid singing or humming along. Try not to do anything that may distract your team members. If you find the urge to sing or hum distracting, consider switching to white noise or instrumental, or take a break from your music.

  • Choose the right music. Depending on what you're doing, different musical styles are going to be right for you. If you're doing a repetitive, physical task, consider fast-paced dance music, but if you're reading or analyzing information, a soothing instrumental might be best.

  • Create your playlists before work. Rather than spending your work time trying to figure out what to listen to, decide beforehand both what you'll be listening to and how you'll listen to it. Creating playlists that help you focus can increase your productivity, but the act of planning your music shouldn't interfere with your tasks.

  • Turn it off when you need to. Be aware of how easily you can focus with and without music. If your music distracts or irritates you, you may want to turn it off and give yourself a quiet environment where you can pay attention to work.


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