June 21st is Music Day, the national celebration of all things musical. While live music events will take place across the world, some offices will remain resolutely music-free. This is sometimes an aspect of daily office life that needs to be taken into account when organising an office interior design and office fit-out. And it’s certainly something that we at Paramount need to consider when we embark on a new office interior design project.

Whether your workplace allows music to be played will be based on the company’s individual policy, but music in the workplace can actually be sourced back to the industrial age, when businesses hired women and orchestras to sing and play in order to encourage work.

Music in Office design

In the 1940’s the radio started to appear in the workplace, in fact the BBC launched a twice daily show called ‘Music While You Work’. Playing upbeat music, its intention was to help increase productivity. Nowadays, many businesses see background music as more of a distraction, some even banning it from the workplace. Ironically, recent research commissioned by U.K. licensing organisations PPL and PRS for Music, found that 77 percent of businesses said that playing music in the workplace increased staff morale and improved the atmosphere.

Opponents to music in the workplace will argue that it affects concentration and prevents them from hearing alarms or important announcements. This would seem to be backed up by recent research in Taiwan that showed, while some background music increased worker satisfaction and productivity, music with lyrics had significant negative effects on concentration and attention. The study concluded that music without lyrics is preferable, as lyrics are likely to reduce worker attention and performance.

air guitar - office design

On the other hand, a study carried out over 5 weeks at the University of Windsor in Canada saw that with no music, quality of work and positive attitude were down and tasks took longer to complete than with music. Dr Anneli Haake, who has a PhD in music psychology, stated that music in a workplace helps to manage other distractions such as noise and, in the creative process, it enables an increase in focus on a given task, improving inspiration and problem solving.

Indeed, music is now being seen as a popular tool for engaging with staff and clients. In boardrooms across the country, many companies are now adding a soundtrack to their presentations in order to give their message a bit of life.

It seems that whichever side of the fence you sit on, you’ll be able to find a statistic that backs up whether you should or shouldn’t allow music in the workplace.

The law requires businesses that play any recorded music in public to get licenses from the Performing Right Society (PRS), which collects fees and pays royalties to composers and their publishers. Listening to a device through headphones, however, is free.

headphones - office design

As we’ve explored in a previous article, noise reduction is an important aspect of office design and there are a number of products that can solve it; from noise dampening pods to portable screens.

Ultimately, whether you choose to listen to music in the workplace will depend on the industry you work in, the layout of your office and the company’s policy regarding it.

Whether you have a Spotify playlist that everyone listens to, a rota of democratically chosen radio stations, an office full of individuals wearing headphones, or a silently productive workplace, there will be an office design to suit it. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, when your next office fit-out comes around, it’s important to consider the role you want music to play in the workplace.

Written by Andrew Roberts, Business Development Manager

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