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Is it OK to listen to music at your desk?

Estimated reading time: 1 mins

Walk between the pods in your office and look around for people wired up for sound – see anyone? Listening to music whilst working is growing in popularity, but is it OK?

You might have discovered what I have – it seems that more people are listening to music at their desk than ever before. This isn’t really a new thing, but I have noticed over the last 2-3 years how it’s grown in popularity. Quite possibly because it is becoming more acceptable in the workplace.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

Here are some reasons why it might be bad:

  1. When we’re listening to music, we are tuned out to other aural stimuli around us. We miss the chatter of our colleagues, and we might miss the sound of our deskphone ringing.
  2. We create a visible signal to others that we are not interested in them.
  3. It is a distraction – especially if the music has lyrics. We may not even be conscious of it but this does divert our brain-processing from our work
  4. It impairs our performance

Here is the counter-argument as to why listening to music at work might be good:

  1. It cuts out other noise and external distractions
  2. We create a visible signal to others that we are not interested in them. (Yeah – same point as 2 above, but this might be what we are deliberately want!)
  3. It can calm our mood and improve our feeling of well-being. Familiar music reduces the distraction – so if you’re hell-bent on plugging in at your desk then listen to your favourites.
  4. Music can stimulate creativity
  5. Classical music has a positive effect on performance

The jury’s out. Personally, I don’t do this as I require total silence to work effectively. I dislike noise around me, which is why I often move from my desk if it becomes too noisy. I am not in a creative job (although we all need to be creative at times) – so it wouldn’t help me so much.

But maybe it works for you?

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This post is part 11 of 16 in the series Working & Living

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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