With so many of us currently working from home, it’s understandable that some businesses may be worried about people’s productivity. There may be children demanding attention, shopping queues to negotiate, the latest box set demanding five more minutes, and music playing.
However, the last of these can actually have a positive effect on the working environment, as long as, like Abba said in Dancing Queen, “where they play the right music.” And while music in the workplace has sometimes been a bone of contention, self-isolation and social distancing has removed those barriers.
Research by Workthere found that 38% of workers said that listening to music improves their productivity, while 35% said that music at work helped to improve their mood 1. That said, most of us would probably accept the latest Norwegian Death Metal track is likely to be less than work-friendly.
But with Google Trends showing a huge spike in searches relating to ‘work from home songs’ since 14th March, what type of music helps? And are employees listening to the right songs?
Of course, with music taste being so subjective, what works for one person may not work for another. But a 2012 US study found that background music with lyrics had significant negative effects on people’s concentration and attention 2. Business News Daily also reported in 2019 that studies found lyrics and a really fast tempo could be distracting 3. But according to the University of Edinburgh 4 and the BMJ 5, music can also reduce anxiety – which in turn, can affect concentration 6.
Based on this, it seems that listening to low-tempo songs with few lyrics is the way to minimise lapses in concentration and get the productive juices flowing. But if your playlists don’t quite fit the bill, here are Benni’s most productive songs for working from home.
We used Spotify Playlist Miner to analyse the number of times a song appeared in playlists that featured the terms, ‘work from home’, ‘productivity’, ‘concentration’, ‘brain food’ and ‘workday’ to find the most popular. We then collected data on the tempo and lyrics for each song from Musical Data, with a score out of 10 allocated for slow tempo and ‘instrumentalness’ (the amount of vocals in a song), The results were averaged to determine their Productivity Score.
The most popular songs and productivity rating
It’s probably no surprise that the most popular songs on playlists tend to be chart tracks. But as they usually have vocals and often catchy lyrics, they don’t score highly for productivity. In fact, the most popular song, ‘Work from Home’ by Fifth Harmony, just about breaks the productivity top 40 at 37th.
For a true productivity boost, classical, soundtrack music and electronic lo-fi songs tend to fit the mould of low-tempo with an instrumental focus. Though relatively recent as music genres go, electronic lo-fi (or downtempo electronic) is a popular listen for people working from home. And whether you believe in the ‘Mozart Effect’ or not (where classical music is said to make people smarter), three rank in the top 15 most productive.
While we all have our favourite go-to songs, they may be proving more of a distraction instead of helping us work. So why not try listening to something different – and encourage your employees to do the same.