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Office Music for the Workplace?

office music in the workplaceAll the senses count, all the time. Consider the effects of the sounds you play as background office music — or the impact of dead silence and ambient noises. The right choices in office music help create an atmosphere for the workplace, are good for morale and may boost productivity. Consider taking a close look at ways to integrate sound architecture into your business environment — it isn't just "elevator music" any more!

Music, obvious or subtle, affects workers in offices and reaches customers and clients in retail and professional settings. Researchers have been studying the effects of ambient soundscapes, and applying them in marketing and production contexts, for about a century. Some facilities may be served perfectly well by internet radio stations while others need a completely custom sound design in order to achieve the goals set for the system. Certain environments* find it acceptable to allow each employee to listen to nothing or any music at all, as long as it doesn't distract co-workers.

*Such as those served by industrial factory music, and whose needs differ greatly from those of office and professional spaces.

Experts Chime In

"Just about all offices have some type of music playing in the background. Music can affect emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills. Music in the workplace, [emphasis added] either from piped-in music or from a radio, is sometimes used to mask sounds. Music can provide mental stimulation while performing monotonous tasks, which can help to reduce stress levels in the office. Some people, however, find music in the office intensely annoying, especially if it is too loud or inappropriate." —Dr. Loretta Lanphier (source)

"Studies have shown that different types of music can have different types of effects on heighten psychological arousal or to relax. Now couple those two effects with the different demands placed upon workers.... Some jobs require steady concentration and a stress-free environment. Other jobs are monotonous and repetitive and may benefit from toe-tapping rhythms and a variety of musical textures.... Researchers have discovered that novelty and repetition increase the liking of songs regardless of style. [emphasis added] However, there is also a "burnout" factor as well, say when you hear a song played 16 times during a given week." —the Workplace Doctor

The right mix, the right cost

Creating an effective and palatable soundscape is very different than relying on personal preferences. Most facilities that take seriously the effects of workplace audio will employ consultants or hire specialist services. Audio selections may be subject to fees that include, for example, normal royalties paid to the performers and publishers. These costs add up to an investment decision that should be approached logically and methodically, and with specific objectives in mind. Such services and costs are discussed in detail on our industrial factory music page.

For more details, see copyrights, royalties and governing bodies and, if in doubt about your office music plan, consult an attorney.