Is it okay to listen to music while working?

by Ayla Lewis

This audience question about music while working was asked and answered at the Enumclaw School District Science of Happiness Workshop. Watch the full video here.

The data indicates more than ever that your mileage will vary when it comes to listening to music while working. Generally speaking though, the best thing to listen to while concentrating on work is nothing. This is because distractions, like those from music, take us out of ‘flow‘, one of life’s most enjoyable and productive experiences. To minimize distractions, you should listen to, in order of preference:

  1. Nature sounds–put on a YouTube video of a river, for example, it is restorative, blocks out distractions, and keeps you focused.
  2. White noise–try using white noise, a combination of sound frequencies, to mask the sounds of talking, office equipment and other sounds. White noise has also been linked to improve learning and memory.
  3. Familiar instrumental music–if you must listen to music, be sure that it is music you know well and has instrumentals only.

Unfamiliar music, especially with words, is one of the most distracting things we can listen to at work.

Experiment, and find the sounds that best boost your productivity and happiness at work.

One caveat: Music also has a powerful effect on mood. Science suggests a boost in happiness raises productivity 10-25%, so a mood boost from music could be beneficial to your happiness and productivity.

At Happy Brain Science, we suggest experimenting: try each type of music out and take note of what works best for you!

Do you have a question about the science of happiness?

Whether you have been to a Happy Brain Science presentation or just landed on this website curious about how you can bring more happiness to your workplace, we’d love to answer your question next. Post it in the comments or on the Happy Brain Science Facebook page, or send it to [email protected]

Ayla Lewis

As Director of Operations at Happy Brain Science, Ayla thrives most when helping individuals and organizations to maximize their success through the application of positive psychology and neuroscience.


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