It’s a quiet day at the office.
The sounds of the keyboards a clicking away and you can hear the hum of appliances and the buzzing of fluorescent lighting throughout the room. It’s kind of nice, but also kind of eerie. Then a voice is heard that cuts the silence like a knife.
“Do you mind if I put on some music?”
What’s your reaction when a co-worker suggests this? Do you agree that the place is too quiet and needs some sound, or do you immediately nix the idea in favor of silence?
Playing music at work is no big deal for some, but it’s a major distraction for others. Certain businesses have established policies about playing music in the workplace. Some don’t allow it, some allow it in small amounts or at a low volume, and others have top-of-the-line sound systems that pipe music throughout their whole facility (I’ve seen this in many manufacturing facilities. The music gives workers’ ears a break and provides a more pleasant alternative to the constant buzz, hum, or grind of machinery). Workplaces that play music in common areas lean toward classical, jazz, easy listening, or middle-of-the-road rock. Most offices have that one person who wants to crank up the hard rock for everyone to “enjoy”, but there is that respect factor to consider.
But is music a necessity or nuisance? Does it help or hinder productivity?
It’s an individual choice.
We sometimes take music in the workplace for granted, but just think of how much longer that doctor’s appointment would take if they didn’t have that soothing “muzak” playing. I’m one of those people who can’t stand long stretches of quiet. I listen to music on my way to work. I’ve listened to music in some way, shape, or form at every job I’ve had – even bringing in my own CDs to play on the computer if I had to. It’s just easier for me to stay on task if there’s a song playing in the background; it makes the day go much faster.
Setting the mood
Depending on your profession, you might find music to be more of a necessity than others. Certain professions lend themselves to quieter environments—those that involve number crunching, measuring, or any other type of precise task come to mind. If your job requires total concentration or undivided attention for the majority of the time, you’re probably better suited to a quiet atmosphere.
But others thrive on sound—namely, the creative field. Artists, designers, interior decorators, or writers, often use music to set the tone for the day. I know creatives of all kinds who have based their own work on a song or musician. But music can be a great motivator for anyone, no matter what the field. Some of us like to play songs that put us in a certain frame of mind that can provide that extra boost to get through a long-lingering or time-consuming project.
I’m in an office for most of my workday, and although it’s not a wildly creative environment, just playing music helps to put me in a better mood. Though I have busy times when I’m on the road or running to various meetings, most of the time I’m at my computer, and it gets a little tedious if there’s nothing but silence all day. I go to my list of standbys—those musicians I can listen to almost any time of day, no matter what I’m working on. My usual staples for my 9-5 job include Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Sarah McLachlan, and Dar Williams. Writing needs a different, mellower playlist—usually jazz, folk, or new age. I use music to keep me motivated at the office just as I use it to relax and get into the “zone” for writing.
Sounds of silence
But I can also respect those who need complete silence in order to be productive. My boyfriend is one of them. As he works on papers for grad school, I respectfully plug in my iPod and we’re both happy. There are times when I don’t mind the quiet but if I know I’ll be in one place, such as my desk or in the car for a long time, I make sure that I have some music handy.
What about you? Do you need music or silence to get the job done?
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