Is music in the office a help or a hindrance?

July 24 2017
Is music in the office a help or a hindrance?

Playing music in the office has been a bone of contention for decades. Some people swear by the motivating, feel-good effects of background tunes, others need complete silence to focus, while a third group prefer their own private playlist cocooned in headphones. The answer to the question depends on the company size and culture, as well as the type of work being done.

Striking a balance between disparate tastes can be a problem and is often solved by choosing music that no one likes, i.e. the radio. There is never going to be a simple answer to agreeing on something as polarising as what music to play in the office and one person’s bona fide classic is another’s insolent noise. Some employees will find the speed metal of Slayer invigorating and inspiring, others will find any type of music distracting.

A compromise of allowing different people to choose on different days may still cause some grumbling, but at least it gives everyone a say at some point. Music is a personal thing; however, some people won’t accept the “variety is the spice of life” approach and the choice of music can become a source of sniping and stress.

Additionally, it is important to keep the volume at the right level so it can be ignored if necessary and there will always be the need to make phone calls, have meetings, plus other instances where music isn’t appropriate.

A lot of the time it can be easier to simply have no communal music and allow employees to use their own headphones.

This is double-edged.

It may prevent tension regarding the volume or song choice, and it allows people to create their own concentration cocoon, but it doesn’t promote employee togetherness, which is one of the main reasons for having office-wide music.

If your employees find it necessary to wear headphones to block out noise, then adding music to the mix probably isn’t the best approach and there may other aspects of your office’s culture that need addressing.