Music at work can be a calming and/or uplifting emotional, social, and motivational lubricant as conducive to serene productivity and professional service delivery as a comfortable pair of shoes, a couple of timely and reliable daily breaks, and a properly controlled indoor climate.
On the other hand, it has the potential to be about as distracting and mood-souring an influence as ill-fitting footwear, the client/vendor telephone call that completely obliviated your eagerly anticipated mid-mornining deep breath and cup of Columbian nirvana, or the office air that either has goose-bumps running down your arms, or beads of sweat pouring down your face and right onto the sales report your boss wanted you to double-check and return to his desk.
A few simple factors come into play to determine which of the above applies to music’s impact on your workplace environment, or your part of it, and your productivity and work generally. The first is autonomy. That is – who is in control of this seemingly inconsequential aesthetic? That, in and of itself can invite myriad “pandora’s boxes”. But, as this is the workplace and not the schoolyard, outdoor urban “turf”, or even the bedroom, let’s leave the hypothetical interpersonal difficulties to another discussion and another article!
So, barring all that interpersonal strife and even office politics that can come into play and make the workplace soundtrack a virtual battlefield for personnel meta-matters, what characteristics of your aural atmosphere are conducive to comradery, good mood, and good work?
That comes down to your own personal cognitive style and your particular response to music. The effect music and other aesthetic but not operationally demanding elements (in other words, they exist and/or operate without needing to be attended) can have on individuals varies greatly. One important factor is what exactly your job demands of your faculties. If you are a 911 operator or other dispatcher, chances are that not only would music be a distraction, but that it is already outright forbidden anyway.
Many other workplace environments have similarly rigid, or else sheerly compulsory requirements that preclude the playing of music , at least at some times and places. If you’re a teacher, sure – you can choose to have music be a part of the milieu you have established. But, should one of your students be too distracted, or if you are of course direct-teaching the whole class, then again, at these times, clearly “background” or other music would fall into the realm of distracting.
When the choice truly *is* yours, then whether it is calming and comforting and motivating, or whether is it distracting and abrasive, is surely a personal matter and a personal choice. If it is distracting, obviously, do not have it on.
And if you find it calming and makes work more enjoyable, then let the music play!