To cite or reference this content, please use the following reference:

Haake, A. B. (2010). Music listening in offices: Balancing internal needs and external considerations (Doctoral thesis, University of Sheffield, Sheffield) accessed from



Across all three studies, the findings present a varied picture.

Music could be distracting while working, but could also help to manage other distractions in the office environment.

Music could be relaxing when employees chose to listen, but annoying when imposed.

Even though music was subordinate to work activities, it was nevertheless important in many different situations, for many different reasons. Many of the participants in the research reported that music in the office was very important to them in order to manage the auditory office environment and its distractions, to manage mood and internal thought processes, to accompany tedious work tasks and to inspire them.

There were many contextual aspects that were taken into account when employees listened at work (e.g. other people present, potential impact on organisation, demands relating to the job role), and these aspects shaped and modified their listening patterns.

The findings contribute to knowledge in that they show the important and multidimensional roles that music can play for employees and in which situations, which highlight the need to consider the workplace as a part of peoples’ everyday lives.



13 Responses to Findings

  1. cory cooper says:

    I work for a pretty big company you might have herd of it I am a picker basically I walk around for 10 hours with my little shopping cart and pick 1350 items 2 make rate I usually get 1500/1800. I have talked 2 managers and every one I could to get a radio in there after weeks of convincing they said I could bring one in it was great but I could not take it out without a security badge which I’m not eligible for since I’m tier 1 associate but I took it in their anyways it was great until it came up missing. Just wondering if you had any advice that might help me sway my bosses and improve the lives of my coworkers. They are always pushing time on task and productivity not only do I think music would help them but us workers 2.

    • anneli says:

      Hi Cory! Thanks for your comment! It is really interesting to hear about how it works in different companies, and how different attitudes to music can be. It is very common that it is down to individual managers whether workers are allowed music or not, and their reasoning for this may not always be well thought through. Not only in my own research, but in much research previously, it has been argued that music listening can be beneficial for monotonous jobs – which is what your job is like, if I understand you correctly. Having control over the music is a very important factor in this – so, in other words, managers just choosing music for their employees in a ‘one size fits all’ kind of way is usually not that good. Instead, when employees can control and choose their music at work (at least to some extent), then it has several positive effects. These effects seem to start with feelings of positive mood and well-being, and also by employees perhaps not being disturbed by other kinds of noise. These things can then ‘rub off’ on productivity. The problem is that some managers do not particularly care about the well-being of their workers, as long as they work fast and hard. I don’t know if this is the case at your workplace. But if this is the case, the managers may not be as interested in music at work, because they can not see a clear connection between music and productivity. My own opinion is that this is a very crass way of looking at things, and probably even a false economy. With that, I mean that if organisations do not look after their employees in terms of well-being and job satisfaction, they are likely to have more people off sick, and people leaving – which means large financial costs. So even if it is difficult to prove that music has a direct impact on pure productivity, it can still have clear relationships with profits and finance of the organisation as a whole. From my point of view, it would be easy to point to studies of where music is beneficial for monotonous jobs and argue that the costs of facilitating music would be beneficial for them – and I am thinking in terms of your job satisfaction, mood and well-being which also affects concentration. But whether your managers would listen, and would be interested to try, I don’t know. I wish you the best of luck, and thanks again for your comments. /anneli

  2. daesha says:

    My office is small and the bosses just changed the music system som that our office, reception and back office are all connected and we all have to list to the same stuff. They also said that the music has to be with out words because ‘studies have shown that wordless music makes for more efficient working.’ Now the job i do is customer service and sales and is very high stress and requires you to be organized, fast and friemdly while selling and soving problems. Ashram music, elevator music and classical music don’t cut it for giving you energy. So, I am wondering if there are any studies that show that is does not matter if the music has words or not or is rock or funk or whatever. Or maybe a study that shows that when people have controll over their own work environment they work better.
    any ideas?

    • anneli says:

      My own research shows this, please look at publications for links to published/doctoral research that highlights that the important thing is to have control and to listen to your preferred music – rather than particular types of music. Good luck! Anneli

  3. Stella Ann Rigby says:


    I am a 65 year old female creditors clerk and have a very exacting job with over 350 creditors to reconcile (amongst other work) and we have recently had the corporate music radio installed. It is 95% modern / remix which is driving me up the wall. It is very stressful and I have had flu for the first time in 8 years. Have tried earmuffs but they are not very comfortable.

  4. Brandtrack says:

    Interesting information, thank you for sharing it.

  5. Pingback: DGM Insights: Adding Music to Your Office ‹ DGM Creative

  6. Tim Wells says:

    I am having a lot of problems at my job. I work in an open office, where people bellow across the room at each other instead of speaking in an “indoor voice.” I have coped with this for 4 years with earplugs, however, they’ve just started allowing an OFFICE DJ to play music on speakers for the whole office. I am the only one out of 25 people who objects to this arrangement. It has been horrible. The music has made me enraged, I have spoken to the boss and he says I have to deal with it. I have tried, but after a couple weeks I went berserk. I am told to go buy noise cancelling headphones, or work in the storage room. I look at my co workers faces and I feel nothing but contempt for them. They are raping me with their music.

    • anneli says:

      Hello Tim. Sorry to hear about your issues with music at work. I do think unwanted, forced music can be truly negative for some people, and I can only say it is a real shame that they do not seem to take your concerns seriously. Are there any ways you can explore a change in desk location for you? Are there any other spaces, outside of the main open office?

  7. kajal says:

    we are a very small team of 4 women at work , mostly me and my assistant are in-house most of the time .
    what kind of music can i put on .i am in the nutrition consulting industry

  8. Joyce says:

    We recently had a new supervisor come on board at the company I work for. Before he came on board, we all listened to music during the day which seemed to improve both mood and morale. The new guy doesn’t like music at work as he finds it distracting. We took a vote, and all but him wanted to continue to listen to music in our work area. Of course he pulled rank (position) and said this is Company property so there will be no music. My attitude toward him has plummeted and my mood is suffering, I no longer feel “happy” to come to work. I might mention that I have worked for this Company for a very long time and prior to this was excited to be here. Help!

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