How music and ambient noise can affect your work

How music and ambient noise can affect your work

As most office workers now spend most of their day on their computers – many in open plan offices – the use of headphones has spread. Some employers worry that staff listening to music at work can distract them, but evidence shows that this is not necessarily the case.


recent study at Cornell University has found that music can have positive effects on people’s attitudes, particularly in terms of team-work and co-operation.

The researchers – Kevin Kniffin, Jubo Yan, Brian Wansink, and William Schulz – found that when upbeat music was played, people were more likely to contribute positively to group activities.

Researcher Kevin Kniffin explained: “Our results show that people seem more likely to get into sync with each other if they’re listening to music that has a steady beat to it.”

Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, added: “What’s great about these findings, other than having a scientific reason to blast tunes at work, is that happy music has the power to make the workplace more cooperative and supportive overall.”

Ambient noise

However, it’s not just listening to music that can help you get on with work. Some are now turning to ambient sound for relaxation or to improve their focus.

For example, one study found that performance can be affected by intermittent speech, such as other people’s conversations and calls; but by using ambient sound, staff can drown this noise out and focus on their work.

Some sites where you can create your own ambient atmosphere include A Soft MurmurNoisli, and Soundrown. Popular sounds include rain, waves, or a crackling fire, which some feel help them deal with pressure or focus on long, detailed tasks.

In many cases, allowing staff to listen to certain types of sound can actually improve their productivity – a goal we all should be striving for.