Background music in the home office – Is it a help or a hindrance?

Music remote working home office Playlist

Opinions differ about listening to music at work. Some cannot do without it, while others find it distracting. This is why the subject of listening to background music in the workplace usually creates a lot of discussion.

However, while science cannot answer the question of whether music increases work performance with a clear “yes” or “no”, there are certainly studies that prove its negative effects; particularly in relation to lyrics and repetitive beats inhibiting concentration and even leading to stress on the body. In this case, music is a distraction, especially for when performing mentally demanding tasks. It takes up parts of the already limited brain capacity and makes it even more difficult to stay focused.

Music – a treat for body and soul

Choosing the right music is therefore essential. The right song at the right time creates a good mood and provides motivation. Even the most monotonous jobs can be easier to handle.

In a study by scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, listening to music has even shown to significantly increase concentration while working. Ideally the music selected should be subtle and not too intrusive, but even rhythms can help to create an even way of working. This means that you work more intensively while using less energy, and ultimately achieve better results.

A Massachusetts General Hospital study even shows the positive effects of music on the body: when listening to music perceived stress can be reduced, as fewer stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are released. Blood pressure and heart rates decrease, breathing slows down, feelings of stress and anxiety subside, and the body begins to relax.

The ideal soundtrack – one fits all?

If you want to benefit from the positive effects of music, you must keep in mind that you need the right background music for every kind of work. For concentrated work, like reading or writing, lyric-less background music with a calming sound is ideal. According to the study, lounge, instrumental and classical music are most recommended. Soundscapes such as natural sounds are also suitable for this type of activity. The relaxing and calming effect of birdsong or the sound of the sea can be measured in the brain and, according to studies, causes us to reorganize our thinking processes. However, Pop, chart music, summer hits or other fast beats create an uplifting mood and are ideal for more monotonous work processes.

Three golden rules for music in the workplace

So, if you like to work to music, you should pay particular attention to certain rules, especially in open-plan offices. In general, one should refrain from general sound reinforcement: not all colleagues share the same taste in music, and a common consensus is often difficult to find.

Headphones therefore provide a remedy - but only to a limited extent. The following applies here: no pumping-up volume! Don't forget that you should still be able to hear the phone ring or requests from your colleagues.

And finally: no singing along. Sounds tempting but for everyone's sake, it should be done at home.

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Photo: © Tomasz Gawłowski via