For more than a decade now, the idea of having fun at work has received plenty of attention. Happiness and play at work have increasingly been seen as highly beneficial constructs; ones that if applied or utilised effectively, can create motivation and engagement and positive emotions for employees, as well as productivity and enhanced collaboration for employers. It would seem like a great “win – win”.
To summarise just a few key findings, for example, those employees who describe themselves as being happy and engaged are:
- 180% more energised
- More than three times more satisfied with their jobs
- Three times happier with life
- More than twice as engaged at work
- Two-thirds less likely to take sick leave
- 50% more motivated
- And 50% more productive than their less happy counterparts
The question then becomes, what factors or strategies contribute to or create happiness at work? And this is where it becomes a bit more challenging. We can be confident that real and meaningful happiness at work is a good thing; but we also need to accept that there’s no “one thing” that will lead to this. Why? Because we’re all different! So what works for one employee might not work for another employee!
Let’s take a look at one commonly used strategy; one that’s often assumed to create energy and, therefore, productivity within workplaces – the playing of music. What do we know from the research?
According to Assistant Professor Teresa Lesiuk, from the University of Miami, listening to music can increase the speed with which people complete tasks; and improve the quality of ideas people have. At the same time, however, her work has also shown that certain types of music can interfere with information processing as well as reading comprehension.
Other research has shown that the experience of positive emotions brings many benefits. The Broaden and Build theory, made famous by Professor Barbara Fredrickson, suggests that positive emotions broaden our thinking repertoire, making us more creative and innovative, as well as increase our ability to build on our resources (both internal and external – meaning our skills and strengths as well as our social supports and colleagues).
At the same time, and most of us know this from personal experience, music can boost our mood and make us feel better. So it can be concluded that if music makes us feel better, and feeling better improves performance, then music can play a key role in productivity.
But it is important to go back and recognise one of Professor Lesuik’s findings; that the type of music is important, and its impact may well vary depending on the type of task being completed. One could sensibly add to this the individual tastes of each and every person. As the saying goes, one man’s fish is another man’s poison; or one person’s Mozart is another person’s Justin Bieber!
What, then, is the answer to the question? Does music boost productivity?
Well, the simple answer is yes. But the slightly longer and more complex answer is … it depends. If the music makes you feel good then you’ll probably work better; but if the music is grating and causing your ears to bleed then you might like to change the channel or put on a set of those wonderful noise cancelling headphones and create your own personal workspace with your own personal playlist.