By Colleen Fahey
Recently we’ve been hearing about Tesla and other companies requiring their employees to return to work in-person. That’s caused me to ponder what a productive, less stressful and more enjoyable workplace sounds like.
During WWII, when productivity needs were high, an influential study was run in the U.K. called Music While You Work. The researchers found that carefully chosen music played in factories during morning and afternoon periods helped increase productivity by 12.5-15 percent.
The study made strong claims about the effects of music on the factory workers.
- It boosted the tired worker
- Acted as a mental tonic
- Reduced boredom
- Increased happiness
- Minimized conversation
- Relieved nervous strain
- Reduced absenteeism
Fast forward to today and many people believe listening to music while working helps them get more done and be more efficient.
People incorporate music into their workdays for various reasons. Some listen to fill a sound void and set a cadence as they’re doing mindless tasks or “busy work,” while others listen to get their creative juices flowing. Beyond helping set the pace, there are mainly two ways that music can be beneficial in the workplace: 1) it helps us concentrate better, and 2) it boosts our mood and therefore helps us carry on with whatever mundane task we might be doing.
From a branding point of view, music in the workplace, especially in public areas, can serve to remind clients, visitors, suppliers and, yes, employees of the company’s aspirations and values, through the design of playlists and the chance to infuse short variations of branded music among the chosen tracks.
Common areas like the parking lot, the entrance, the waiting area and the break rooms are ripe for music. During the WWII era, they found that what worked in the factories was familiar dance music without lyrics, with some variety supplied by “novelty bands” and theater orchestras. They recommended against using employee suggestions.
Today, we’d want to vary the musical energy by daypart and even by work zone. And we’d infuse categories of music that support the brand personality. But we’d probably agree that voice-forward music should be avoided and that employee suggestions can have a divisive effect on the team.