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FKA Twigs

Does Music Work for you?

Ampersand HQ / Off / November 1, 2014

“You can’t work with music on, it’s too distracting!”

Haven’t we all heard that one a hundred times before. Well, we think that statement is wrong, and we’re going to prove it.

At Halo we love working to the soothing sounds of Banks, Oscar & the Wolf and Ben Howard just to name a few, but we know not everyone likes to work with music on. Intrigued by the question of whether music actually DOES help you work or if it’s distracting like we’ve been told, we decided to do some research. (Don’t forget to play this magical Banks song to aid you in reading this post)

Let’s start with the basics… Why do we enjoy music?

It starts with a d and ends with an opamine! Bascically when you listen to music a part of your brain called the nucleus accumbens is activated, triggering the release of everyone’s favourite happy chemical. Dopamine is the very same chemical released in our brains when we eat food we really like (cupcakes), socialise (party) or take drugs (don’t do drugs kids!).

To get a little more technical, from a physiological point of view, the brain has developed this “reward system” to incentivise the most basic survival tasks like eating and reproducing. Where does music fit into this? Studies have shown that music helps us connect and develop a group identity; making it more likely we will work together and socialise. Evolutionary-wise, that’s a pretty important one for the human race!

Does Music help you work?

Try this for some serious soul and mellow beats! FKA Twigs debut album, LP1

As listening to music you like is enjoyable, it makes sense that listening to music while you work will also increase your enjoyment of work, but can it make you work more productively? Yes! In one study it was found that a person’s ability to recognise images, letters, and numbers was faster with music playing in the background compared to when there was no music.

A new study from Mindlab International published in September has also found that 9 out of 10 workers perform better listening to music, with 88% of the study participants producing their most accurate test results and 81% completing work faster when music was playing. From all our research it seems that listening to music is going to make you more productive, happier and better at your job!

The “I Told You So”

For all those who just can’t let go of their ‘music is a distraction’ opinion, turns out you’re right too. Researchers in 2010 at the University of Wales Institute proved that music can indeed SOMETIMES have a negative effect. They found that our ability to learn something new decreases when listening to music, particularly if the task is more cognitively demanding.

In comparison to this, studies show that assembly line workers listening to music are happier, more efficient and make fewer errors. Conclusion? If you need a little extra brain-power for a task, music can be a distraction, but if you know what you’re doing then it’s the perfect accompaniment to your work day!

Does the type of Music matter?

Now that we’ve established music = good work we can ask the question of exactly what type of music is the best to listen to when you’re locked in writing a blog post, coding a website or just casually performing open heart surgery. Going back to the Mindlab study, it has now been found that different genres of music can have more positive effects on certain types of tasks. Here’s their list:

Classical music – If your work involves numbers or attention to detail
Pop Music – If your work involves data entry or working to deadlines
Ambient Music – If your work involves solving equations
Dance Music – If your work involves proof-reading and problem solving

The steady beat and repetitive nature of dance music actually produced the highest overall accuracy and fastest performance across a range of work tasks. It has also been found that songs with fewer lyrics are better for concentration and efficiency though the consensus overall is still that the best music to listen to is just the music you most enjoy.

Our Conclusion

If you’re good at what you do, listen to music! Even surgeons work more accurately at a task when music they like is playing in the background. If you’re working on something you’ve done many times before, your productivity, efficiency and enjoyment will all increase. THE BUT! But if you’re learning something new, switch it off until you’ve got the hang of things.

So what have we been listening to in the office this month?

With all the proof reading and problem solving we do around here, it’s a bit of ambient indie dance music for us. We‘re seriously digging the soulful R&B and mellow beats of the lovely ladies Solange, FKA Twigs, Banks and Beyonce. Except on Fridays, because Fridays were made for old school punk, pop and disco!

Next question on the research list: Do puppies help you work? We will definitely have to do a case study for that one…

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