The question is often posed whether it is better to listen to music while at work or not. The general way of thinking is that it boosts productivity and employee moral but a quick search on the internet will reveal a variety of differing opinions. Reading through some of them I was left with a simple answer to this old question. It depends.
One classic study on assembly line workers tested how music affected how they worked. Their overall productivity had increased greatly but based on what we know of human psychology now it’s more likely their mood was simply given a boost given the repetitive and boring nature of their job.
Now that’s not to say that your job needs to be boring and repetitive for music to be good for it. The main point is that performing any task which doesn’t require a lot of thought or verbal communication, in essence, a job that can largely be done on auto-pilot, is perfect for music. Having some earbuds plugged in can add a sense of isolation and allow you to focus fully on the job at hand. Other studies have found that music with a high bass is the best for this due to the rhythm they induce. Electronic music like that done by DJ Krista is one example. Depending on your role so as a tradesman, music could help you a great deal to get through the more repetitive parts of it. However, considering the role of most trade jobs with the risk of accidents and the need to work as a team, it’s probably best to leave the earbuds at home.
However, another interesting finding was that surgeons were found to listen to music a lot during surgery. Many of them felt it helped them relax and remain calm through a surgery. Researchers speculate that because surgeons are experts in their field music allowed them to relax and stay uplifted rather than distracted. And since their jobs are largely non-verbal any presence of lyrics in the music didn’t distract them from the job at hand.
In one other study introverts and extroverts were tested to examine the effects of listening to music which engaged in a memory task. Participants had to remember objects immediately or after a delay as well as a reading comprehension test. It found that on average introverts performed worse on this than extroverts. Especially when asked to remember an object after a delay. They concluded that this was because introverts process things more internally and find external events far more energy draining.
All this taken together what are we left with? Music can boost productivity when the job is a bit repetitive or the person has it mastered so well that they required less thinking about it. Though for those jobs that involve a lot of verbal communication and cognitive thinking, music can serve more as a distraction. Also, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert can also have an influence. Best thing to do is test out a few songs at work and see how you perform. And of course, if your job involves an element of danger exercise caution and leave the earbuds back home.