Background music for offices might seem counterintuitive; silence can be distracting. If you’ve ever stepped into a quiet library, you know how intimidating it can be to unzip your bag or even take a sip of water. Background music shifts the focus off of you and masks other sounds that are far more distracting. Without the presence of other sounds, your sounds take center stage.
“Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.”
—— Robert Fripp
The distraction of “others.”
In a silent office, we hear everything from the low buzz of a server rack, the beeping of the microwave, and the constant activity around the door. Most of us try to drown these standard office sounds out. It’s harder to drown out the noises made by our coworkers. Have you ever had a noisy typer nearby? Or maybe a loud eater? Or, worst of all, someone having a phone conversation? Studies have shown that one-sided conversations (the kind you experience when someone is speaking on the phone and you can’t hear the person on the other end) are far more distracting than if two people were having a discussion next to you.
82% of respondents are annoyed by others’ cell phone use in public.
Background music provides a layer between you and the rest of the office ecosystem. Office noises and coworkers fade behind the music and become much less distracting. For many people, background music provides a sense of privacy as their squeaky chairs and conversations get lost to their coworkers’ ears under the background music.
We can’t help but be distracted by random sounds.
Our brains have two systems that control how we spend our attention. These mechanisms are called the Dorsal and Ventral attention systems. Simply put, one system allows us to focus and concentrate on tasks while the other is constantly on the watch for unexpected events like a phone ringing or a door slamming. While being ready for the unexpected can come in handy in certain situations, it can be lethal to your productivity at work. Research has shown that it takes an average of 23 minutes to recover from being distracted.
Background music provides a pleasant mask to shield us from these distractions and prevents our brains from getting off task.
Background music improves our creative performance.
Aside from protecting us from unnecessary distractions, background music in offices can aid us in producing better work. Studies have shown that moderate background music enhances creativity as opposed to low (silence) or loud music. It’s important to note that it is specifically background music, not foreground music, that is effective. Foreground music is meant to be heard and listened to as the primary task. Background music is subtle and not attention-grabbing. It allows our minds to wander in and out of focus. Activaire curates music for background and foreground music applications. We work with our clients to determine which type of music is appropriate for their business goals and staff.
Music is a part of your brand.
Branding plays a significant role in the design of offices. Everything from the use of corporate colors, the mottos displayed, the style of furniture and fixtures, and the type of computers used help tell your brand’s story. All of these elements work together to provide context to your employees and visitors. Background music ties these elements together while strengthening authenticity, personality, emotional connections, and engagement.
Employees want music at work.
In a survey of 4,553 employees, totaljobs.com found that 79% of those surveyed would benefit from music in the workplace. 36% listen to music when their surroundings are too loud or too quiet. Employees in open-plan or team settings prefer background music to offset other distractions. 44% of employees who say they are distracted by coworkers cannot listen to music in their workplace. Silence is a productivity and motivation killer.
Get expertly curated background music for offices and coworking.
Determining what type of music to play is a big step. We recommend designing your office music program around your brand values, the kind of work you produce (creative, financial, etc.), and the demographic makeup of your staff or members. Consider how the music reflects your office culture and what it communicates to visitors. Adjust the volume levels to ensure that the music is audible but not overwhelming. Background music should not interrupt team discussions or phone conversations. Think about changing the pace based on the time of day. Ease your team into their workday.
It’s important to remember that while you generally want the music to remain in the background, you also need to be ready to take it to the foreground for special events and office parties. You know what they say about all work and no play.
Lastly, provide choices and ask for feedback. We have designed a palette of playlists and scenes to offer teams a wide selection of options based on genre, tempo, and vibe. Using Activaire Curator, office and community managers can adjust the vibe of their spaces on demand. This flexibility allows for a dynamic, inclusive, and productive workplace.
Click here to learn more about Activaire Curator for offices and coworking.