The pros and cons of music at work

Is allowing employees to listen to music at work a good idea?

There’s no doubt that music has the ability to put people in a great mood and lift the spirits. Whether you are in a supermarket, gym or restaurant, there is always music playing in the background. Businesses have long understood its power and often use music to add to the ambience and make the customer experience better.

But employers can be left flummoxed about whether allowing employees to listen to music with headphones in the office can have a positive or negative influence on employees’ performance.

We all want our staff to be engaged and productive and have some fun at work (yes, it is possible!), but is letting them reach for the play button the answer? Let’s explore the pros and cons.

The supporters

Those who support having music in the workplace argue that it’s relaxing, can help alleviate day-to-day pressures and boost staff morale and job satisfaction.

If the employee is doing repetitive tasks, music can help keep them motivated. For instance, if they are inputting large quantities of data onto a spreadsheet, some argue it makes them work faster and results in fewer mistakes. If creativity and innovation is key to the employee’s role, music can help stimulate and get their artistic juices going.

Others maintain that listening to music helps keep their focus when undertaking their work duties. For example, in an open plan office environment, it can drown the sound of phones ringing, the tapping of keys on keyboards, people munching snacks at their desks and colleague’s conversations. These types of noises can drive some employees around the bend and cause nerves to fray, therefore by blocking it all out, they can concentrate more easily on their work tasks.

The detractors

Others think listening to music via headphones is a distraction, making employees less productive and zapping their attention.

Some employees may find it is a source of irritation, especially if they can hear their colleague’s music blaring out of their headphones. Remember not everyone will have the same music tastes!

Employees may also – intentionally or unintentionally – cause offence with their song choices, causing tension. This can have a negative effect on team dynamics.

Additionally, when an employee uses their headphones, it can result in colleagues feeling like they cannot approach them. It gives off a ’don’t come close’ aura, creating a silo mentality. From a business perspective this is not ideal because you want everyone to work together to achieve commercial goals.

Comment

The simple reality is that whilst someone in a back office function can get away with listening to music with their headphones, someone who is in a customer facing role simply cannot.

When deciding workplace rules, it is important to think about whether it aligns with the nature of your organisation and workplace culture. Whatever rules you implement, you should consider the reasons behind them and whether they are reasonable.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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