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Offbeat: Music makes the work go round


It’s official, listening to good music can improve your morale. Thank goodness for that, get some Metallica on quick!

‘New research’, as press releases are often headed, can uncover all sorts of surprising facts and information. Sometimes, though, it just confirms what everybody already knows.

The latest appointment to the Ministry of the Bleedin' Obvious came this week from MusicWorks, an organisation linked to the PRS royalties service, which is seeking to promote the benefits of using music in the workplace for staff morale.

Apparently, their research revealed that 60% of employees enjoy improved morale when listening to good music.

They broke it down further: In the research of 2000 people, 71% wanted music played in the workplace:

  • 76% of employees working in retail claimed that staff morale was improved with good music
  • This was more significant in warehouse workers, with almost 87% feeling boosted
  • In general, 66% felt happier listening to music at work

That statistical bombshell got me thinking, there have been many, many instances of research into the effects of music and musical preferences on personality, productivity, aggression. You name it, someone has probably studied it.  Here are some interesting examples:

  • A student researcher named Dorothy Retallack tested the effects of various types of music on the growth of plants. She subjected one group of shrubs to classic rock music like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, and another group of poor innocent plants to jazz. Amazingly, when two weeks had passed, the jazz plants were healthy and bent toward the radio. The rock music plants grew very tall and droopy, with faded blooms, and most had died within 16 days. Make of that what you will...
  • The Association for Psychological Science reports that intelligence test scores grew higher in children who took lessons in keyboarding or singing from an early age. Also, in a similar study, boys between the ages of 6 and 15 who took music lessons scored higher on tests of verbal memory than a control group of students without musical training.
  • Experiments conducted in the 80s found that in both supermarkets and restaurants, slower music creates slower traffic flow, which means that people shop for longer in the supermarket and spend more time eating and drinking in the restaurant.
  • Some of the most publicised studies into whether listening to music increases productivity have centred on what has been termed the "Mozart effect". It has been found that listening to Mozart’s music may increase specific types of intelligence, particularly spatial-temporal abilities. Mozart’s music has also shown some benefits for those who suffer from epilepsy.
  • Music psychology researcher Julius Portnoy found that music can change metabolic rates, increase or decrease blood pressure, effect energy levels, and digestion, positively or negatively, depending on the type of music and the preferences of the listener. Calming music, such as classical music was found to have a very calming effect on the body, and cause the increase of endorphins, 30 minutes of such music was equal to the effect of a dose of valium.
  • A student named David Merrill played hits by the classic thrash metal band Anthrax to a group of mice continuously for 24-hours a day to see if it would affect their ability to learn a maze. Unfortunately the mice seemed to dislike the 80s thrash Gods, and the experiment was abandoned when they ended up killing each other.

So, we’ve established that people like listening to good music. We’ve also established that Mozart can make you cleverer, plants like jazz and mice really, really hate Anthrax. But what do we mean by 'good music'?

We need to compile a work playlist; an eclectic selection of your favourite suggestions for musical accompaniment to work. We need to know the title of your favourite working song and the artist, but we also need to know what it is about that particular tune that makes it good for working to.

Leave your suggestions below and who knows, perhaps we’ll release a compilation CD of training professionals’ musical selections.

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