The right approach to music at the workplace

By Christa Schwandtner, 05.07.2018

For many people listening to music is an important part of life. Whether we sing along while we’re sitting in the car or whether it urges us on to peak performances in sport – we can’t imagine life without it. But what about music at the workplace?


In principle, legislation permits music at the workplace unless an internal agreement does not allow it. Moreover, it may not breach contractual obligations. This means that each person must fulfil his or her assignments conscientiously and that the music may not distract other staff from concentrated work.

Speaking of colleagues, music at the workplace may lead to conflicts in open-plan offices in certain circumstances. Experience shows that music is a matter of taste, and taste is in the eye of the beholder – or rather the ears of the listener. In this respect the use of headphones may provide a remedy.

But even then, not all those involved are enthusiastic and suspect that listening to music distracts people from their work and is detrimental to concentration.

However, in most cases precisely the opposite applies. A team of experts led by Prof Tom Fritz of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig has discovered that listening to music may even assist in completing assignments. During the performance of monotonous work processes rousing music can motivate and improve productivity.

Even in the case of more difficult work the right music, heard through headphones, can promote highly concentrated working. At the same time other sounds or conversations between colleagues are more easily blocked out.

When drafting texts no music sung in the same language as the text to be drafted should be used. This would have a distracting effect. The same applies to songs which are new to the listener or make him want to sing along – which brings us back to the colleagues.

Even in the case of more difficult work the right music, heard through headphones, can promote highly concentrated working.

In their study, the team of experts from the Max Planck Institute detected a positive effect on our body: when we listen to music our breathing becomes more intensive and the oxygen supply is stimulated. This is of particular benefit to us when caffeine is no longer able to stave off fatigue. Furthermore our favourite music engenders a good mood – and it’s a known fact that a good mood is contagious.

So what genre of music suits what type of work?

Classical and instrumental music help you with work which demands a high level of concentration.

Natural sounds have a soothing effect and are particularly useful when you are stressed and have trouble concentrating.

Dramatic and epic music such as that used in films and musicals has a positive effect on your sense of purpose and can have a successful impact on your productivity.

Pop and indie rock are classic mood makers. And good humour makes for much lighter work.

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