Does music help
you focus at work? -
We find out

There’s an old saying, that you pay the pied paper right and he’ll play you something to drive your worries away. Perhaps that’s more wishful thinking than the original story includes. Yet, there is consensus that music can help us focus on work better. But how do we pick the right tunes?

Its all about choice –
Colleagues in a professional setting have varying goals and functions throughout the day. It’s clear through observation and trial (many of us can attest!) that giving people a choice in what they listen to, benefits them better than imposing one style on all your co-workers. Just watch this the next time one introverted co-worker bumps bossa-nova on his headphones while the office clown rocks out to heavy metal!

Rhythm is everything –
Studies have shown that listening to familiar tunes, with a steady beat, helps us retain our focus on repetitive tasks. This is evident in jobs such as coding or even bricklaying, where professionals use genres like drum n’ bass or jazz to reinforce a rhythm. This simulates a space for the human mind that they can optimize to work better.

To sing or not to sing? –
Science backs up the claim that popular and/or lyrical music can hamper selective types of work. Lyrics speak to our brain’s language centres, prompting a separate thought process to decipher and follow them. This becomes a problem if the listener has to work on something else which also involves language, especially tasks involving any learning, such as reading something beyond their level of typical reading.

Fail-safes are real –
Studies back up how genres like classical music are highly effective for work, because of reduced intrusion into existing thought process while still being immersive. For starters, one could begin with Baroque classical music, such as Vivaldi’s ‘4 Seasons’ or Bach. ‘Ambient’ music is also useful when facing stressful environments at work. Brian Eno, an ambient composer, says ‘“Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”.

If all else fails, one can try out videogame OSTs or white noise. The SimCity Soundtrack is one, sounds of nature are another. Keep in mind though, to pick a tune that doesn’t let your pace of work stutter!


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