Back before anyone thought about working from home or shopping online, many adults worked and shopped in groups. Even back then, bosses looked for ways to increase the productivity of their workers, and store owners wanted to motivate shoppers to buy. They discovered that music played an important role.
Many of these locations broadcast a music service through speakers. It was created by a company called Muzak. They researched how music impacted the way we worked. They programmed the easy-listening music in 15-minute blocks throughout an eight-hour working day. The average heart rate is 72 beats per minute – so their tracks would start slower than that, and by 14 minutes would be much faster, with lots of brass to get you to pick up your pace. Then after a break, to avoid fatigue. And then, the process would repeat with upbeat tunes after lunch or when people were less motivated.
While Muzak is gone, as are many huge offices, their approach got me thinking about creating my playlists to help me get started at the beginning of my day. I’m not the kind of person who prefers to work in silence. Music motivates me.
A study published in Trends in Cognitive Science found that music helps battle stress and anxiety more than actual anti-anxiety medication. It can also help when you are faced with boring and repetitive tasks. A study published by the JAMA Network, showed that surgeons tasked with repetitive tasks in the lab (outside of performing surgery) showed improved performance when they worked while listening to music.
I use a combination of Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music.
I like to start my day with upbeat music. For me, that’s Springsteen, Taylor Swift (don’t judge) Journey, and other lively tunes. One study found that we performed best while listening to songs paced at around 121bpm. This is about as fast as tracks like Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody, and I Will Survive by Diana Ross
As the morning progresses and I concentrate on more complex projects, I include instrumentals or even movie soundtracks. After lunch, I depend on Springsteen (notice a pattern?), Santana and blues. My late afternoon secret is upbeat classical music.
We are all different, and your playlist will be different than mine. But there is evidence that music not only helps us at work but even in a work-from-home environment, might help us reduce our feeling of isolation.