Is Music in the Workplace a HR Headache or Hero?

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Companies are always trying to find innovative ways to improve the work environment and increase employee retention rates and the overall company culture so that employees are happier and more productive.
Workplace perks and improved communication from management are some ways of tackling these issues, but could there be one simple addition to the workplace that may change everything?
Music.

The Benefits of Playing Music in The Workplace

Listening to music certainly has its benefits. In fact, it has been proven to lift people’s moods and help them focus on tasks with many students even using it as a tool for revision/studying.
The power of music is even used as a marketing tool for many businesses; retail stores play specific types of music to set a specific mood in-store that encourages consumers to make a purchase or spend more time in the shop.
Gyms play certain types of music in different areas of their gym/different classes to produce certain results i.e. a spin class will use high-volume, fast-paced music; whereas, a yoga class would use more calming, soft music.
If music is such a powerful and emotive tool, then how can employers utilise this to benefit them and their employees?

A study of 4,500 workers by Totaljobs, in collaboration with a music psychologist Dr Anneli Haake, found that 79% of people would benefit from listening to music at work.
Further studies have shown that certain genres of music being played in the background whilst carrying out repetitive tasks can improve the performance, concentration and efficiency whilst boosting the overall mood of the person listening.

The benefits of background music even go as far as to help improve one’s memory and can enhance performance with creative and accuracy when it comes to numerical-based tasks.
This means that there are certain roles within a business, such as finance, admin and marketing, that could see a major improvement with the help of some music.

If you wanted to really reap these benefits in your workplace, then you could probably do a bit of research into the best songs to play and create a playlist that builds the perfect ambience and environment.

There are also cases where music can alleviate anxiety over doing certain tasks in the workplace. For example, a silent open plan office where employees must answer phones or make calls could make them feel self-conscious and overly aware of the fact that everyone could be listening in to their calls. By having constant background noise, such as music, it can reduce anxiety levels about talking on the phone around a room full of colleagues.

The Problems with Playing Music in the Workplace

Unfortunately, it’s not all roses and unicorns when it comes to the question of playing music in the workplace. There are some issues that could arise and that you need to carefully consider before making a decision.

The most obvious problem that you’ll face is opposition from employees who may find the idea of background music a distraction or nuisance.
Though music does have it’s benefits for many, it may not be welcomed by all and that is something to take into consideration; hence, you must discuss the idea with every employee who works onsite (as this will not affect remote workers) and shouldn’t move forward unless everyone is happy with it.

You also need to consider the type of work environment and any health and safety issues that playing music aloud could present. For example, a call centre, which requires a lot of speaking over the phone, benefits more from as little background noise as possible.

There are also some strict laws about playing copyrighted music in a public setting, so you will need to obtain a licence – known as ‘TheMusicLicence’ – to play music out loud without the risk of being prosecuted.

Alternatives to Playing Music in the Workplace

As previously mentioned, you must survey all employees who are on site before playing music in the workplace, and if there are any employees against it, then you should consider the alternative options.

A great alternative that enables workers who benefit from listening to music, and those who prefer silence, to get their wish is to allow earphones to be used at leisure (again health and safety observations permitting).
Sometimes the noise and chatter in an open plan work space can be more distracting for individuals who require more focus, so popping in some earphones, blocking out the noise and having more relaxing music in the background can help with this.

However, the one drawback with that option is that it could cause communication amongst employees to drop, but this can easily be fixed by implementing weekly meetings or using an online communication tool.
You could even specify within a policy on the matter, that only one earphone can be in at a time so that employees can still hear their surroundings, i.e. when someone is trying to get their attention or the fire alarm goes off or their desk phone rings.

The wearing of earphones, however, must be restricted in certain industries, particularly if you’re working with machinery, in a public facing role or in a factory where you need to be able to hear any oncoming dangers from moving vehicles etc.

How Should You Manage Music In The Workplace

As with any HR matter, you should have a clear policy written up, put into your company handbooks and clearly communicated to your employees.

If you have opted not to allow music to be played aloud in the workplace, but are happy for employees to use earphones and listen to music privately whilst working, then your policy should outline:

If you have decided to allow music to be played out loud in the workplace and have received the thumb’s up from all employees and purchased the necessary licence, then you should put a management system in place.
This would include:

Often workplaces choose to stick to a generic radio station to avoid conflict amongst employees or the possibility of an offensive song from being played.
You could still allow for the use of earphones in this case so that individuals can listen to their own preference of music and everyone is happy.

Alternatively, you can prohibit music in the workplace altogether.

As with any new policy being introduced into the workplace, monitor it closely for a few weeks to ensure that it isn’t causing a distraction or affecting productivity. If so, you may choose to put a stop to it; otherwise, make any necessary adjustments until you get it right and see how the power of music can benefit your business.

If you would like any further information on playing music in the workplace, or advice on any other HR issues, then call us today on 0845 2626 260

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