Headphones and work come hand-in-hand in the workplace. Walk around any office or workspace and you’re bound to find workers nestled at their desks with earphones in. Maybe it’s AirPods or something heavier, like noise-canceling headphones from Beats by Dre, but while it’s commonly thought that listening to music or podcasts during work helps some focus (American workers have said that listening to music makes them much more productive), past studies suggest listening to background music can have its benefits but can also impair creativity.
But listening to music — specifically classical music — can increase productivity big time, according to a new study analyzing workers in the UK.
A study of 2,000 workers commissioned by radio station Scala Radio and psychologist Dr. Becky Spelman had four office workers transcribe two tasks of 600-word music lyrics, one done in silence and the other with classical music being played.
In the silent exercise, the average time it took a participant to finish was about 21 minutes, but when tackling the second task with music being played, participants finished an average of more than three minutes sooner at just 17 minutes and 52 seconds.
“Music has a very powerful impact on the brain. It affects mood, mental performance and physical performance,” Spelman said via The London Economic. “Many people find that listening to certain types of instrumental music can help them with their productivity levels. The music can function as a sort of ‘white noise’, canceling out potentially distracting ambient noise,
“I thought maybe there would be a few seconds difference, but it was three minutes which really astounded me. The power of music that is relaxing is astonishing. The reason why this was so effective is when people listen to relaxing music it stimulates the brain and we become bored less easily and stay focused.”
Spelman said if the music is calm and contains a regular beat, it can help workers stay calm while reducing stress, slowing heart rates, and moderating pulse.
“This makes it easier for us to focus on the task at hand rather than entering into ‘flight or fight’ mode, in which it can be very difficult to think clearly because of our elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol,” she said.