Does music really improve your work productivity?

I’ve always felt that music puts me in a good mood, and all pumped up for work. A good music playlist is key especially when you are going for that run. Actually, music is the only reason I get through an awful session of physically enduring activity! I have felt that this effect of music also transfers to my productivity at work. Especially when I am getting through that week filled with assignment deadlines, I found myself getting more of my writing done faster when I was listening to upbeat music. However, a few weeks ago when I was having this conversation with my friend, she said that while she does believe music helps with workout, she did not think it helped her while she tried getting any productive work done, especially anything to do with writing. She thought that the lyrics distracted her, and she often found her thoughts wandering off. So, was I wrong?

Effect of music in improving anxiety and mood

Music is known to improve one’s mood. This is because the brain releases a chemical known as dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure and is known to reduce stress and anxiety in an individual. In a recent study, patients were requested to either consume anxiety suppression medication or listen to music. It was observed that patients that listened to music experienced lesser anxiety compared to those that took the anti-anxiety drugs. So, one could say that since music has the ability to uplift a person’s mood, it could in turn increase concentration and productivity when trying to complete a task. However, the choice of music may really be the deciding factor.

Instrumental music over lyrical music

In the 1940’s the British government introduced the “Music While You Work” programme, that would broadcast upbeat music about twice a day, in their military munition production factories, to boost productivity of the factory workers. It was an immense success! Managers had reported a 12-15% increase in production for about an hour after the music sessions took place. However, in more recent times, research has indicated that the nature of the music is also important when being used to incite productivity. Research from Applied Acoustics claims that lyrical music actually decreases the mental performance of an individual at work, while classical musical is said to have the opposite effect and increase productivity. Listening to piano pieces from famous music composers such as Beethoven and Mozart, is said to increase the amount of alpha band brain waves transmitted, which is said to be associated with memory, awareness and problem solving. So, lesser the voices we hear, while we are engaging in work, greater our productivity.

This may also be the reason that more YouTube classical music live streams are cropping up these days. Even for those who are not so much into classical music, there are other streams such as the very popular “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to”, which I’m pretty sure most of us university students would have tuned into, at least once. However, then why do some of us still feel like that we get more work done when we are listening to lyrical music, including me. Have we been lying to ourselves or are we trying to convince ourselves that music actually helps us, and we are being more productive? Something to ponder about…


7 Responses to “Does music really improve your work productivity?”

  1. Peter Stulpner says:

    I am definitely a huge believer in listening to music while I work and have found that the more lo-fi style genres are much better for me productivity wise!

  2. EJ Huang says:

    very interesting post! I do notice classical music increase productivity and pop music don’t. But didn’t know it is connected to brain waves and can affect memory, awareness and problem-solving.

  3. eewent says:

    This was an interesting read. I’m definitely one of those people who gets distracted by lyrical music but I do find myself being more productive when I listen to my favourite lofi tracks.

  4. Md Abu Humayed Bin Murshed says:

    Interesting piece there, Fathima! Personally, I’ve always found instrumental music helpful for focusing. Lyrical music, on the other hand only helps when I’ve listened to the songs before. If its a new track, most of my attention will go towards the lyrics.

  5. Kyle France says:

    Hi there, I found this to be an interesting read, but I wonder if listening to music or different types actually does something on a chemical level in our brains or if it’s mainly psychological?

  6. Angelique Milevski says:

    Hi Faroos! Thanks for your blog post, I found it really interesting because I personally love listening to music and have found that sometimes it’s more distracting than helpful. I also had heard that classical music can be helpful in increasing concentration and can work as a de-stress tool. I found the ‘Music While You Work’ programme particularly interesting as a 12-15% increase in productivity is quite significant. I was wondering does classical music also help with increasing sleep or enabling people to fall asleep quicker?

  7. Misky says:

    Hi Fathima,

    This was an interesting read. Like you, I find that listening to lyrical music as I work greatly improves my productivity. I’ve found that I’m extra productive when it’s songs I already know the lyrics to; only because it’s already familiar so I don’t get distracted. I wonder if there’s any research that’s been done on this?