Music at work: The best thing since casual Fridays

Dancing on the deskMusic is ultimately a social experience. Since man first banged rocks on trees or whittled sticks into flutes, music was designed to commune with an audience. Over the many millennia, music has evolved to become the inspiring power it is today but modern man has also created technology that has taken away many of the communal experiences and placed them between socially disconnected ears.

Listening to music impacts key regions of the brain in potent ways and when groups listen together the effect is exponential. This influence holds true for people who are listening directly and even indirectly to music. In a workplace, music can galvanize and inspire.  It can motivate and empower. It can even add to the bottom line. But to have positive impact it needs to be incorporated in the right way.

Your Brain on Music

We listen to music because it brings us pleasure. Our interaction with music, regardless of the genre, touches us, arousing sensations and feelings. This arousal is sparked by a burst of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for seeking rewards. When we listen to music, and specifically when we focus on the tension of a song or classical piece, the release of this joy juice is triggered in the dorsal and ventral striatum. This pleasure center of the brain is where our experience of happiness begins.

The Rewards of Music

Anticipation, joy, relaxation, excitement, pleasure…these are some of the direct rewards of music. Some of the byproducts of music are flow experiences and the building of resources.

The social experience of music has the potential for creating the conditions that foster an energized focus on and immersion in a task. Rapid learning and creativity characterize this mental state of flow.

When music makes us feel good, we also think more broadly. We consider more options. We look for more answers. When music touches us, we actively build new cognitive and social resources that will buffer us from stress and will help us solve problems throughout our day. When we experience frequent, intense positive emotions, we can trump the effects of negative emotions that are part of every day and every workplace. This makes us more productive and resilient.

Music, Emotions, and Productivity

Our shared experience of music can give us a shot of joy juice that will get us through the afternoon, help us become more engaged and collaborate creatively, and make us more productive. As we create positive emotions in the workplace, we kick off upward spirals of energy that can make a good workplace great.

Shane J. Lopez, PhD is the Director of Research at The Clifton Strengths Institute. Dr. Lopez leads research on the links between hope, strengths development, academic success, and overall wellbeing and collaborates with scholars around the world on these issues.

Do you listen to music while you work? Does your office have any rules about listening to music—or do you make the rules in your own home office? Does music inspire you to be creative or productive? Tell us about it below!