How Music Drives Happiness & Productivity at Work

I LOVE music. It helps me think. It can motivate. If can boost my mood. It can inspire me and produce creativity. It gets me moving. I’m glad that I have a job where I can have music in my space. When I want to get in my “zone” I put on my big headphones and crank up the tunes (#HRMusicShare always has some good suggestions). Its almost like I get tunnel vision and just get a rhythm going. Fortunately, I work in an environment where this is acceptable and if people need me for a drive by I’m still visible at my desk for a quick chat or able to have a quick IM. I also have places to retreat to when I need a quieter space for calls or have small meeting time.

However, that wasn’t always the case during my working years. I’ve also worked in very quiet and sterile environments, places with constant humming of Muzak, and others with the the only noise the steady ho hum of people chatting and moving about. I’ve worked with or for people who didn’t want people wearing headphones in the office or have music streaming at their desks. I get it, its not for everyone. People, businesses, and managers have their own personal preferences. I want to think less about preferences, and look towards what creates happy medians (ie happiness) and what produces the best results of the business and employees.

How to Find Happiness & Productivity at Work

Got you thinking? So what’s the right formula that drives happiness and productivity for your workplace environment? A couple of things to consider:

What’s Right for Your Customers

Some of you are working in an environment right next to your customer (ie. retail, hospitality, or other service industries). You can’t ignore the impact of having a worker with headphones jamming out to music on while trying to help a customer. Is your workplace full of workers who need constant silence or a work area free of distractions (ie. certain programmers, designers, or engineers)? Their work environment is a direct reflection on their work product (drives productivity) and what is needed to support or sell to customers.

Is the Work Environment Optimized for Productivity – When in Doubt, Ask

Often times we make sure that our employees have everything that they need to be productive — computers, software, office supplies, phones, corporate cards, and so on — but what thought do you put into the environment that they need to be successful. What is the noise level like? What is the people-traffic like in the area? What’s the lighting like? Often times we take a wholehearted attempt to provide an awesome work environment for our workers — and sometimes we miss the mark. Instead of guessing (or copying other companies) ASK your workers what they like and what would make them most successful. You can’t please everyone, so use the 80/20 rule and solve for the 80% and be flexible where you can for the 20% to give them viable options that can work for them as well as your business and customers.

Where Can you Be Flexible?

I like this one because it lends you to be creative and really think about what types of areas are needed. I like to think about an example from my undergraduate days. In my dorm (I lived in Jester) there was a “quiet floor” but the living area was full of many other options in case you needed some space to be not so quiet — including lounges, group study rooms, and many other areas that was easy to get to. Think about that when you look at your worker’s work areas. Do you have a quiet area where people can retreat to when they need something with less noise. Is there an area where they can meet with customers or have group work? Is it okay to wear headphones if you want to cancel out the noise of the areas around you or listen to some tunes? You may not be able to blast your tunes while the office is open or you have customers, but what about when you are opening or closing, working in the backroom unloading trucks or stocking shelves? Think not only of the areas, but the kinds of work you do, where you do them and time of work day.  Also think about where you locate items such as copiers, vending machines, ping pong tables and who is sitting next to them.

Employee Satisfaction Drives Productivity

Its a  such a small thing but easily overlooked — and when you get it right it can have such a big impact on employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity. What is the environment like for your workers and what impact does it have on their productivity?

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Andrea Devers

Andrea is an HR technologist and change management expert. She’s has built her career in global HR Compliance, HR process improvement, and shared services across all functions of HR. Connect with Andrea.


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