There’s a lot of philosophy and research about how offices are losing walls and if that’s better or worse for productivity. But what isn’t in dispute is that people, whether or not they have walls or half walls, often use different techniques to help drown out the activity around them. One of the most popular is music. And turns out music can help boost productivity.
A recent survey from Accountemps added to the evidence that music is a good productivity booster. One of their survey’s managers, Carrie Lewis said, “When it’s used appropriately and it’s not distracting others, it can help reduce levels of anxiety and depression and it can maybe improve your memory and attention, by blocking out outside distractions.” Even if you don’t particularly want to boost productivity, it can make your day at work much more enjoyable.
One interesting tidbit to also come out of the survey is that about 9% of respondents reported that their workplaces have strict rules against music. That seems overly strict but perhaps there was some incident that forced a company’s hand and made those rules a thing.
With that in mind, I think it’s really all about being respectful to people around you, so I’ve come up with a few rules for music in the workplace.
1) Use headphones
Always use headphones. This isn’t just for the office either. Use them in the subway, walking down the street, in a coffee shop, on an airplane (seriously, always on an airplane). There are very few situations where people appreciate you soundtracking the room by playing music out loud. The only two I can think of are in a car and at a party. Nowhere else.
2) Not too loud
No one wants to hear the tinny echoes of your headphones. No one.
3) Avoid singing along
You may have a great voice. You may be the most popular singer at karaoke. You may even be a professional yourself. But unless you are literally doing your job by singing out loud to the music you’re listening to, don’t do it.
4) Desk drumming
This is a bit different than singing because it’s usually done more absent-mindedly. But just know that, while for you it might just be one of those restlessness symptoms, for others it’s nails on a chalkboard the entire time you’re doing it. Just be more conscious of it and everybody will be happier.
5) Safety first
Music is harmless in an office setting, but for many of us, the office isn’t an office. If you’re endangering yourself or someone else by having headphones on or not being able to hear your surroundings, maybe don’t.
No, scratch that. Definitely don’t.
6) Listen to other people
Music is great, but not when someone is trying to talk to you. You may be trying to go heads down and focus to boost your productivity, but if someone comes up to you in person, you have to give them your attention. Don’t use music as an excuse to be rude. Music doesn’t deserve that.