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Music in the Workplace: The Secret to a Happy Workforce?

6 March 2019 6 min read

music in the workplace

Music is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It can lift you out of a bad mood and make good moods even better.

So why do so few employers make music a part of their workplace wellbeing programs?

Music and Mood – The Science

Many studies have been conducted on the relationship between music and mood.

A 2013 study by the Journal of Positive Psychology concentrated on the effects of happy music. They found that it’s possible to boost your overall happiness in just two weeks by listening to upbeat music.

But music doesn’t have to be happy to make you feel better. A joint UK/Finland study focused on the effects of sad music on a person’s mood. Across three surveys of more than 2,400 people, they found that many find “comfort, relief, and enjoyment” in the saddest of songs.

It goes beyond mood, too. A 2015 study featured in The Lancet found that listening to music before, during, or after surgery can reduce feelings of pain and anxiety in patients.

Music may also help in the treatment of chronic conditions. The World Journal of Psychiatry recently concluded that music could potentially reduce depression and anxiety, and could even prove effective against certain neurological conditions like dementia, strokes, and Parkinson’s disease.

Mental Health in the Workplace

We’ve talked before about mental health issues in the workplace.

We may be reaching a crisis point. According to the mental health charity Mind, one in six workers is currently facing mental health problems like stress, anxiety, and depression.

This news is bad in itself. The idea of anyone struggling with mental health is awful, particularly if they’re suffering in silence.

But all of this also happens to come at a very real cost to the business, too. Widespread mental health issues are estimated to cost UK businesses up to £15 billion in productivity each year, along with over 91 million lost days.

If music can help people cope with stress mental ill health, maybe it’s time you made room for music in the workplace?

But music can bring many other benefits to your employees and your business…

The Potential Business Benefits of Music


  1. Improved Performance – Music in the workplace could make your employees more productive! Different types of music could have different effects. A 2014 study found that upbeat music can result in improvements in processing speed, while lower-key music can help with memory.
  2. Better Diet Management – Most effective employee wellbeing programs involve creating an environment that champions wellbeing programs. Studies may have found a link between music and healthy diets. Specifically, mellow music and low lighting might subtly encourage people to eat less.
  3. Better Motivation – Why do gyms and fitness instructors play their music so loud? Because fast-paced music makes people workout harder. The faster the music, the harder the workout. Studies also show that people who workout to fast music don’t just push themselves harder – they also tend to enjoy their workouts more.
  4. Improved Workplace Atmosphere & Relationships – A 2013 study aimed to find out, once and for all, just why people choose to listen to music. It seems that most people choose to listen to music because they know it’s going to improve their mood. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how music could lead to an improved workplace atmosphere and better working relationships all round.

How to Introduce the Benefits of Music to Your Workplace

So how can you apply the transcendent benefits of music to your company?

It could be something as simple as investing in a workplace radio or speaker system, or in encouraging employees to put their headphones on when they need to concentrate.

You could also do a bit of curating. YouTube and Spotify are full of playlists specifically designed to help with concentration. There are even specialist apps featuring music that draws from human neuroscience techniques to boost focus and motivation.

You could also think about playing different types of music at different times of the day. Play fast and upbeat music at the end of your morning meeting to get everyone nicely pumped for a productive day’s work. Play calm and quiet music in your breakroom to help your employees relax, and to help them truly savor their food.

Music can bring people together. Many businesses like to improve working relationships by setting up company sports teams. So how about a company choir, glee club, or acapella group?

Finally, think of the sort of perks you offer, and how these might relate to wellbeing in the workplace. Many companies offer perks to encourage their employees to stay fit and healthy. Popular ideas include cycling to work schemes and subsidized gym memberships.

But have you thought about offering the sort of perks that might help your employees to enjoy all the benefits of music? How about free Spotify Premium accounts and noise-canceling headphones for all employees? Or free concert or festival tickets in recognition of good work? You could even offer subsidized music lessons or loans for musical instruments.

The Biggest Downside of Music in the Workplace

Unfortunately, as powerful as it is, music is not a miracle cure. It can bring incredible benefits, but they’re by no means the sort of benefits you can depend on.

The main problem is that no two people experience music in quite the same way. The sort of music that helps one employee stay calm and controlled could make another employee feel anxious or irritated.

And not everyone can work in noisy environments. While a constant soundtrack of empowering music might bring out the best in some employees, it could make it impossible for others to concentrate at all.

So there might be a strong link between music and mental wellbeing. But you should think carefully before you make music a part of your employee wellbeing program. Instead, focus on the sort of wellbeing strategies that you might be able to depend on.


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Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
March 6, 2019

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.