Work to the music

Soothing strains can increase productivity

Do you think an office has to be quiet in order to be productive? Well, think again. The idea that your employees will get the most work done in an aurally sterile environment is hitting a sour note in today’s workplace. Employers around the country are breaking the silence with, you guessed it, music. No longer associated solely with elevators, the dentist’s waiting room or phone call hold functions, music is now making its way into general office spaces.

“There is a general movement toward a more employee-centered workplace,” says Joyce Gioia, president of the Herman Group, a firm of certified management consultants and strategic business futurists in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Music is complementing this trend beautifully.”

Business music has actually been in existence for over 60 years, which is also how old the nation’s first and oldest business music supplier is. Seattle-based Muzak has a client base of over 250,000 businesses worldwide-including Mercedes Benz Credit Corp. and General Nutrition Centers Inc.-which incorporate some form of music into their day-to-day operations.

So just how do you implement an “at-work network” that appeals to everyone? While certain music invigorates some people, others may find the same selections distracting. In such cases, “try an all-instrumental format,” hints Alvin Collis, vice president of audio architecture for Muzak.

Here are some more tips to help you create the perfectly productive musical experience for your office:

  • Determine whether it is wanted. There should be a consensus among your management team and staff about whether to have music in the first place, says Gioia. If there isn’t, look for other cost-effective ways to increase productivity.
  • Find music conducive to your particular work environment. For example, rock music in a bookstore is likely to be disruptive to both employees and customers. But Gioia says chamber music and New Age music are appropriate.

There are CDs for students with the music of Mozart that is designed to help them get their work done faster and more efficiently. This music is also appropriate for many offices, Gioia says.

An appropriate music choice will boost an office’s image and help managers maintain a high internal morale, says Collis.

But, Gioia notes, “If there is an objection from any employee, you must abandon the idea of having music. To begin playing music in the workplace without everyone’s support will drive out those employees who didn’t want it. Turnover is too expensive. Music isn’t worth that much.”

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