If Music Be Food . . . .

MusicThere has been a lot of research carried out about how music in the workplace can benefit workers and even more so, their employers. I know I love to have the radio on whilst working, but does it improve how and what I do?

Music in the workplace has been going on for centuries. During the UK’s period of economic and social change, around 1760, orchestras and singers were drafted into factories to sing and play music amongst the workers. Handloom workers in the Victorian era worked such long hours, that they sang together to keep awake and ultimately, keep the looms going. Even the 1937 Walt Disney musical fantasy, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs depicted the dwarfs ‘whistling whilst they worked’. They all seemed to enjoy working with their picks to dig for jewels – perhaps except for Grumpy!

I was quite surprised to find out, that during 1940, the BBC ran a radio program called ‘Music While You Work’. It was broadcast twice a day and was specifically aimed at those that worked in the factories. Bands and singers were booked for the program to play music that would captivate the workers attention; tunes that had an upbeat rhythm to help increase and maintain employee engagement and productivity levels.

Of course, organisations are keen to ‘up’ productivity levels; it’s one of the fundamental keys to a successful business. But how else can listening to music at work benefit employees and their employers?

Well, many music listening employees find that music gives them something else to think about, especially if their work involves repetitive and monotonous work. Music provides a diversion and prevents employees from engaging in other distracting behaviours. For organisations, using music in this way could be a strategy to manage internal interruptions, keeping employees focused on the job in hand and reduce levels of boredom.

Music is great at combating stress and contributes to a persons general well-being, especially if you’re allowed to choose what you want to listen to. Work related stress is connected to ill health, and higher levels of absenteeism, which can be costly to employers. By allowing employees to listen to music, their stress can be reduced, thus alleviating the consequences of work related stress to organisations.

Having background music playing can also create a more collaborative and cohesive team spirit. Choosing what is played over the workplace airwaves is key though, it’s important to make sure that what music is being played is varied and appropriate so as to appeal to everyone.

Of course, allowing employees to plug in their earphones and listen to what they want to help them achieve great work is simple; you don’t need any special licences or indeed have to listen to what their listening to. But when it comes to background music, then not only should there be consideration to a licence to play music and the cost implication, but also to what music is being played. The environment you create impacts the behaviour you get. When deciding what sounds will fill your workplace, think before you press play.

The Survey Initiative team are experts in the field of employee research. If you would like to know more about how we can help your organisation with employee engagement, then call us on +44 (0)1255 850051 or visit our website.