computer showing a collection of spotify playlists

Office music culture: does it pay off?


If music is the food of love, so play on: or so the saying goes. Unless of course, someone is well into playing Craig David at all hours of the day and the other members of the office aren’t into garage bangers of the noughties.

At Curated, we have what we’ll call a healthy obsession with music. From creating and sharing playlists, heading to gigs, going to festivals as a team, and of course playing it in the office, we love a good tune.

But is our obsession any good for our productivity and work life? Turns out, thankfully, it is. We did a little digging to see why.

Apparently, it can increase productivity and concentration

Music actually increases productivity, well, within reason. We have two different types of attention span, the conscious and subconscious. Now, you’ve probably heard some type of explanation for this before: think back to the left/right brain split you learned about in primary school. The conscious brain focuses on what you’re concentrating on, and the unconscious brain acts as a kind of alert or security system that stays alert for new sounds and new experiences, along with potential dangers. It’s this part of the brain we like to keep occupied with music so that we can maintain our level of concentration.

It does, however, depend on the type of music and the type of work you’re doing. For example, if you’re a writer, listening to something with a lot of lyrics, like hip-hop, is probably not going to be the best option for you. White noise or binaural beats are apparently the best for concentration but aren’t necessarily the most exciting to listen to. Something with a steady beat, but no distracting lyrics is your best bet: usually, techno or house is a good choice. But researchers have also found that different types of music can motivate you in different ways.

All about that motivation

No, really. Cornell University researchers found that playing happy, upbeat music in a work environment increased cooperation between team members and improved group decision making. Not to mention, if you’re listening to a type of music you like, it can be quite motivating for you. But, of course, if you’re listening to your favourite music over and over again, your attention might completely narrow in on the music rather than the work.

Some offices find that playing different types of music at different parts of the day nudge their team into certain types of action. For example, happy, upbeat music on a Monday morning might lift the mood, while upbeat music when the team has a big project due can spur them on. It’s not a new-age idea to adapt the playlist to the mood of the office, but actually doing so well can spur creativity and inspiration.

Contributes to office culture

At Curated, we think having a collective mix of music playing in the office not only aids motivation but also creates a nice atmosphere. Letting people take it in turns to decide the music not only makes them feel motivated, but it gets people talking about the music, which eliminates the need for a perpetual ‘headphone culture.’ It’s less anti-social, and it means you can actually talk to the people next to you instead of being a slave to Slack or email.

Our founder, Simon Douglass, agrees. “It’s really important for me to have music in the office – it creates a buzz which, without music, would be a silent lull and I definitely think this impacts on productivity and motivation. I like that most of the office love music and have a diverse range of music tastes, as is reflected in our recent office favourites playlist.”

Helps artists out!

Though you might not UK’s next big DJ when it’s your turn to control the music, what you are doing is actually broadcasting, according to PRS for Music, who deal with the licencing laws around music being played. Even if your workspace is not a public area, like a shop or cafe, you still need a licence to play music in offices of four or more people.

It might sound excessive, but the pro side of it that you’re actually helping the artists that you’re playing. There’s a massive and ongoing argument in the music world against streaming and the little royalties artists actually make through it. Through paying PRS for Music they then distribute them. Surely a small annual fee that helps musicians isn’t too much to ask.

So, what’s the sweet spot?

This changes depending on who you ask, obviously. Listening to smooth jazz might be breezy enough for some to clog through hours worth of work, whereas a classically-trained ear might find Miles Davis way too chaotic for some easy listening. Here are our top tips for getting the office soundtrack right.

Curated’s top tips

Change it up!

Change around who controls the music in the office, along with what you listen to! Certain types of music will always be better than others for working, but new and diverse listening experiences help the mind stay focused.

Dedicate certain hours

Music constantly playing might start to aggravate the office, especially those who prefer to work in silence, or if someone is really keen on playing death metal. Try dedicating certain hours of the day, like from 10-12 then 3-5, a morning and afternoon burst to keep the morale high.

Make special playlists

Something close to our own hearts at Curated, create playlists that your co-workers can contribute to and be excited about being played.

Respect boundaries

If someone doesn’t like that song or that artist, just don’t play it. Headphones are good for that.

Interested to hear what our office sounds like? Check out the Curated Compilation:

You can hear all the other playlists we’ve made too by visiting our playlists page.

Think we sound up your street? Get in touch!

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