The Psychology of Music. What Listening to Music at Work Does to Your Brain
On average we listen to music 32 hours per week either at home, in the car, whilst we’re out and even at work. Music is such a big part of our lives and many people don’t realise the effect it has on our brain.
Whilst everyone likes different types of music, research has shown that music, in general, has a synchronised effect on people’s brains.
Read on to find out how to use music to your advantage when you’re busy at work…
Before starting a difficult task…
Download some motivational songs. It’s believed that before starting a difficult task, listening to energetic, motivational music before you start can actually make you perform better. Research suggests that people who listen to either the radio or their own music playlists on the way into work, start their day in a much more positive mood.
Similarly, if you have a bad case of the Monday blues, pump up your mood with music to start the day on the right foot.
When you're doing repetitive work…
Turn the music up! Our brains are constantly predicting what will happen next based on a pattern, just like the beat of a song. Our brains naturally enjoy repetition, and this is the reason why we end up tapping our toes or dancing to a tune.
When you are doing a repetitive task at work like filing away paperwork or your monthly admin tasks, listening to music can help to keep you focused on the task in hand and make fewer errors. This is because listening to music triggers the release of feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine which make you feel relaxed and happy. Ever heard that surgeons listen to music in the operating theatre? This is why!
When it’s noisy in the office…
Put your headphones on. We’ve all been in a situation when you’re in a busy office and you really need to concentrate but the background noise just won’t give you a break! A noisy environment decreases your energy levels as your brain has to process more data in the background which over long periods can increase stress. Listening to music, especially music you already know and regularly listen to can help block out the background noise and help you get into the zone.
When a new album has just been released…
It’s best to listen to that in your spare time. When you’re at work it’s a good idea to stick to the tunes that you already know well. Research suggests that listening to new music can actually reduce your productivity and concentration as listening to music that you’re not familiar with involves an element of surprise and novelty, reducing your focus. If you are interested in a new song that you haven’t heard before, your body will release dopamine in response, ultimately making the music more appealing than the task you are trying to do and shifting your productivity levels dramatically.
When you need to learn something at work…
It’s time to turn the music off. Learning requires your brain to analyse and remember instructions, however when you are listening to music your brain has to take on an additional task of processing the auditory data on top of everything else you are trying to learn. Because of this listening to music when you are trying to learn something new can disrupt the messages and mean that mistakes can occur much more easily.
The benefits of listening to music whilst you work
So, you’ve learnt when music can be a help or a hindrance, but why is listening to music so good for your brain, mental health and work life?
- Listening to and playing music can make you smarter, happier, healthier and more productive at all stages of life
- An improved mood from music also affects how you interact with your co-workers. If you feel better, you usually are more respectful, patient, and cooperative, which can lead to better teamwork.
- Music is known to relieve the stress that could compromise your focus and performance