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


Respondents described what functions music had for them at work in a free-response question. Five themes emerged:

  • Affect/arousal
  • Managing work-related activities
  • Environment
  • Social interaction
  • Musical interest

[Music helps to] improve my mood and keep a balanced view to what you are dealing with… e.g. it might help me remain calm or positive when dealing with a stressful situation. (46, F: 26-35yrs, Account Manager)

Helps me concentrate, especially when someone else is in the office, or talking on the phone, or having a meeting in my office, helps me to concentrate on what I am doing, not what they are doing. (265, F: 56-65yrs, Personal Assistant/Course Administrator)

Improves my ability to focus on what I am working on. People tend to interrupt your work less if you are wearing headphones! (143, M: 26-35yrs, Grid Systems Manager)

I listen to the music during work breaks because it transcends the workplace and acts as a form of escapism (I sometimes go to the gym at lunchtime which has a similar effect but lacks the spiritual dimension) (450, M: 36-45yrs, Project Manager)

If music was not my distraction, then something else would be, i.e. something unproductive such as fiddling with papers or gazing out of the window. (369, F: 36-45yrs)


Stress was positively significantly related to whether participants agreed that music could help them relax, which suggests that music can have relaxing functions at work – particularly if the participants are stressed at work.

Classical music listeners experienced more job stress, but they did not find music at work significantly more relaxing than non-classical listeners. This finding suggests that classical music-listeners do not necessarily experience higher levels of relaxation at work, compared to for example pop music listeners.

Results suggest that a single dimension, related to inspiration and creative flow, best explained the variance in functions, but that many other factors also accounted for the variance in both functions and activities which together explained 65% of the total variance. This finding highlights the fact that dimensions beyond age, gender, and other fixed background variables can explain differences in listening patterns.


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