Listening to music is proven to lighten your mood, increase happiness, decrease stress, provoke analytical thinking, among many other beneficial brain activities. Though, everyone is different in the type of environment in which they choose to listen to music. Some prefer it in the background of their workspace, while others do not.
There are actually several variables that influence whether or not you should listen to music while you work. Here are the basic rules, courtesy of Inc.com:
If you are in the process of learning, you should not listen to music.
As learning requires multiple steps and processes from your brain, from analyzing to memorization, music actually distracts you from the task at hand. While your brain has to interpret what exactly it’s learning, it also has to interpret the components of sound that the music is making. So, if you have to learn something new, it’s best to do it in a quiet environment so that your brain can focus on the task at hand. Otherwise, your brain might accidentally cross wires, misinterpret things, or make wrongful associations, ultimately storing false information.
If you are trying to concentrate in a noisy environment, you should listen to music!
It’s never easy to concentrate in a noisy environment. This is because your brain has to process all the surrounding stimuli, while it should be using that energy to focus on the immediate task. Noisy environments also increase levels of cortisol, a stress-hormone, and decreases levels of dopamine, the hormone that makes you happy. Consequently, such hormonal changes have negative effects on the prefrontal cortex, preventing your brain from executive functioning. This causes productivity to go down, regardless of the task at hand.
Because of all this, listening to music is actually helpful in blocking out these excessive factors. Additionally, the music keeps you calm in an otherwise overwhelming scenario.
If you are working on repetitive tasks, then you should listen to music!
Studies have concluded that people who listen to music while working on repetitive tasks are able to perform the task at a faster rate while making fewer mistakes. This is because listening to music triggers the release of certain neurotransmitters that make you feel relaxed and happy: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. This is especially true when the repetitive task is complex. If you are comfortable in motion but the stakes are high, then music can help relieve additional pressures that might compromise the performance at hand. (Think, surgeons in surgery.)
Additionally, the feel-good neurotransmitters will improve overall mood and influence positive interactions with others. The better you feel, the more patient and cooperative you will act – which is especially important in the cohabited environment of a workspace.
Exception to the Rules: If you are listening to new music for the first time, you should stop everything else that you are doing.
New music deserves your full attention. When you listen to a song for the first time, your brain responds with levels of dopamine that cause you to feel a degree of pleasure, whether you decide to like the song or not. This obviously makes the music more appealing than whatever else you’re trying to work on. Because your attention is drawn to the new pleasure-inducing stimulus, it ultimately compromises your focus and delays any work from being done.
And there you have it! The healing power of music can actually be incredibly beneficial to a work environment, but it can also be distracting. You just have to know the limits of time and place to decide whether the music should fill the space!