Why Music Is the Secret to Being More Productive at Work

Take a look around your office – how many of your co-workers are wearing headphones? The answer is likely to be, nearly all of them.

As more and more of us spend our days sat in front of a computer, music is increasingly becoming part of our working lives. In fact, a poll by CSS tricks found that 92% of people will listen to music while they work, at least some of the time.

But is the music you’re listening to making your more or less productive? Research suggests that listening to music at work can have major benefits – the key is matching the right genre to your task.


Music is more easily available than ever before

The main reason that music has become so common in the workplace is that it’s more readily available than ever before. Thanks to music streaming services such as Spotify, a huge variety of tracks are at our fingertips – and this can be both positive and negative.

Whilst this gives you more choice (and consequently makes it easier to find the right music), it also makes it more tempting to listen to music that will distract you from your work. For example, how many times have you found yourself gazing out of the window, lost in the lyrics of your favourite song? Or carried on listening to a song you’re enjoying, even though you know it’s negatively affecting your concentration?

music and productivity - laptop and headphone

To be more productive, match your task to the right music genre

However, music doesn’t have to have a negative impact on your work. Overwhelmingly, research has found that it can have major benefits for productivity, creativity and concentration. You’ve just got to make sure you’re listening to the right music.

The main split, in terms of types of task, is between those that require intense focus (known as immersive tasks) and those that require little focus (usually repetitive admin tasks).


Ambient music is best for tasks that require concentration

When it comes to tasks that require intense concentration, such as writing tasks or creative tasks, research has shown that ambient music is the best choice.

Ambient music is essentially music with no low-lows or high-highs, which therefore makes it less distracting. This low level of noise promotes abstract processing, leading to a higher level of creativity, whilst high levels of noise have the opposite effect.

When it comes to writing tasks (or any language related task that requires intense focus), ambience is still important but lack of lyrics is essential. Listening to words activates the language centre of your brain, causing you to focus on the lyrics and not the words you’re creating – however, lyrics may not be detrimental to creative tasks that do not involve verbal architecture, such as graphic design.


Upbeat, happy music is best for tasks that require little concentration

Research has also found that music can be beneficial for repetitive tasks. However, the recommended genre of fast, upbeat music is the polar opposite of what you should listen to during an immersive task.

For example, a study undertaken within a British high street bank demonstrated that workers performed repetitive, undemanding tasks better if they listened to fast music, whilst a study by Music Works found that listening to pop music caused participants to complete data entry tasks faster.

Interestingly, a number of researchers have attributed this increased efficiency to the improved mood music produces, rather than the music itself.

For example, a study by Dr. Teresa Lesiuk on how music affects workplace productivity found that participants performed better if they listened to music that they liked.

So, if you’re doing a mind-numbingly boring admin task, stick on your favourite, happy tunes!


An overwhelming amount of research suggests that music can improve productivity in the workplace. However, the key is to listen to the right type of music for the task you’re doing – listen to lyrical pop music when you’re doing a writing task and it will have the opposite effect!

Want to find out more about how music can boost your productivity? Visit our resource, Music is the Secret to Being More Productive at Work, where you’ll find all the facts and free playlists tailored for a variety of different tasks.