We’ve all been told the traditional advice on improving productivity at work: don’t multi-task, minimize interruptions, say no to meetings, set self-imposed deadlines, etc.
But what about the manipulation of background sound? Can boosting work productivity really be as straightforward as playing specific types of sounds or music?
It turns out that both nature sounds and music have been found to have favorable effects at work.
Let’s start with nature sounds.
The Acoustical Society of America presented findings demonstrating that workers can get more done and feel more positive at work when nature sounds are playing in the background.
The study consisted of three sessions in the same room, where researchers had participants complete tests while listening to different soundscapes. Each session had a different type of sound playing in the background, as follows:
- First session: office sounds muffled by white noise
- Second session: office sounds muffled by nature sounds
- Third session: office sounds with no masking noise
The final results? The employees performed better on the tests when listening to nature sounds and also felt more positive about the setting and the task.
The nature sounds were also much preferred over the white noise even though white noise presented a similar masking effect.
Here’s a playlist of tranquil nature sounds for you to experiment with yourself.
If you’re not into nature sounds, research from the University of Windsor demonstrates that listening to music can have similar positive effects on work productivity.
They found that listening to music at work improves mood and lowers anxiety, which produces an emotional state conducive to enhanced creative problem solving.
Participants that listened to music recorded better moods, produced higher quality work, and spent less time on each task.
Granted, the study was confined to information technology specialists, but there’s good reason to think the effect is more prevalent.
What kind of music was found to have the largest impact? It turns out that the genre is less important than the positive emotional reaction it evokes in the listener.
That means the difference between classical music and heavy metal is trivial provided that the music enhances your mood.
Did you know that a variety of hearing aid models allow you to stream music straight to the hearing aids from your smartphone or music player?