Study Says: Happy Music, Happy Team


However much you love your job, it is inevitable to experience some days where you just don’t feel that motivated to work. What should you do when that happens? You could simply listen to music to give you that little boost of motivation.

Music psychologist Anneli Haake discovered in her research that 61% of employees listen to music at work which not only makes them more productive, but happier too!

Music as a distraction?

You are dreading to write that new proposal. To encourage yourself, you've decided to listen to the latest hits, only to realise that 20 minutes later you are nodding your head to the beats and have only written a sentence. We've all been there, don't worry! Why does that happen? Are you not one of the 61% who becomes more productive through music?

Haake's research also found that the type of music affects thpe type of work you're doing. Her research found that upbeat music tends to boost your productivity when you are handling repetitive tasks. However, if you are working on something that demands your creativity and deep concentration, upbeat songs with lyrics are not your best friend here. Haake suggests listening to music with minimal variation, or, no music at all if you are an introvert, considering that you are more easily distracted by music than extroverts.

Not all songs are equal

To improve your work performance and maximise productivity, listening to the right genre is important. According to a study by Mindlab International:

  • Data entry: ambient music improves accuracy, pop music encourages you to work faster

  • Proofreading: dance music improves your speed by 20%

  • Solving mathematical problems: classical music improves accuracy

Upbeat music encourages contributions

A study at Cornell University suggests you plug in and blast your favourite jams. They discovered that music with warmth and rhythm cultivates cooperative spirits.

In the study, people participated in a 20-round public goods game. Participants were divided into groups of three, each given 10 tokens. Each round, participants could choose to keep some or all of the tokens, or deposit them into a team fund. Regardless of their contribution (or lack thereof), group members could split among themselves at the end of the round.

If all participants chose to contribute, the sum of their contribution would be multiplied by 1.5. In another words, if everyone in the group contributed all of their tokens (10 tokens), they would receive 15 tokens in return.

In the end, researchers found that when they played upbeat music, participants were more likely to contribute. On the other hand, when less popular music (in this case, heavy metal) was played, or when no music was played at all, participants were less likely to contribute. In fact, the likelihood to contribute was one-third higher when the room was filled with happy music!

Music as a team-building alternative

Lead author on the paper, Professor Kniffin, shared that “people seem more likely to get into sync with each other if they’re listening to music that has a steady beat to it.” He added, “teams could regularly play happy music during meetings or brainstorming sessions, a simpler and cost-effective alternative to traditional team-building exercises and off-site retreats.”


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Sophia Wong

Brand and Marketing Strategist in Hong Kong, writes about career, job hunting and interview tips.

2 min read

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