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Office music for the workplace?

office music in the workplace Soothe the savage beast with music in the workplace… here we share favorite tunes that have graced, inspired and sometimes confounded our offices.

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All our 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. (See our personal list of workplace and office music favorites below.)

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

Soothe the savage beast

"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 listeners....to 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 proposed office music plan, consult an attorney.

Below, we update our background office music list as we add tunes to the ranks of our favorites. Use them to create playlist ideas for your ideal workplace music!

Not your average background office music…

We admit it: our tastes are idiosyncratic and our particular office can withstand quite an onslaught of interesting audio as long as it isn't manic. For very long. Nevertheless, we will occasionally confess here some of the tracks that have helped our days and projects fly by in the right frame of mind. Your mileage will vary, assuredly.

Please use the links at www.externaldesign.com to order from our most-current selection of background office music.

We now recommend CDs by these artists: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole ("IZ"), Susie Suh, Vika and Linda, and Joni Mitchell. Check the web page noted above for music we have tried for its effect on morale, mood and productivity.

Click an artist's name for a description:

Israel Kamakawiwo'oleSusie SuhVika and LindaJoni Mitchell

Israel Kamakawiwo'ole — order above — presents traditional Hawaiian and island-inspired modern pieces. His medley "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" isn't to be missed! We wish "Bruddah' IZ" could have lived to see the acceptance his music and his message is receiving on the mainland. Put favorite tracks on your office music playlist and enjoy watching the effects on mood, morale and productivity.