Desperate To Bring Music To Work!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about music’s benefits:

I’m trying to get music back into our workplace and am desperate to get the information I need to show our plant manager the benefits of having it. I work in manufacturing of heating and cooling products. Can you send me any and all reports and studies on how music affect the workplace including: if it does or does not increase productivity, attendance, morale, what type of headsets OSHA approves etc. Any college or government studies would really be helpful. Anxious to hear back from you. Thanks.

Signed, Melody

Dear Melody:

Your name certainly is appropriate to the question you pose: How does music benefit employees while they work? Dan West, a member of our team of workplace doctors, answered this question quite thoroughly. See Question 71 in our Archive What Type Of Music Is Best For The Workplace? At the close of his answer you will find a number of references. West states: Studies have shown that different types of music can have different types of effects on listeners. Two of the many effects music can have may be to heighten psychological arousal or to relax. Now couple those two effects with the different demands placed upon workers and you can clearly see the problems of issuing a general answer to your question.

Some jobs require steady concentration and a stress-free environment. Other jobs are monotonous and repetitive and may benefit from toe-tapping rhythms and a variety of musical textures. Also a scholarly look at work motivation by Richard E. Clark at the University of Southern California was presented at and published by the University of Leuven, Belgium, where I taught for one semester. Music is mentioned only briefly in this article but the model of motivation might be of interest. The research indicates that a sense of personal and organizational control or effectiveness is essential to motivation. I have included an abstract of the study by Clark. See Clark, R. E. (1999) The CANE model of motivation to learn and to work: A two-stage process of goal commitment and effort. Lowyck, J. (Ed.) Trends in Corporate Training. Leuven Belgium, University of Leuven Press.

A cognitively-based model of work motivation describes a two-stage process that first influences commitment to persist at a specific work goal, and then the amount of mental effort required to achieve the goal. Commitment is hypothesized to be a linear function of three, multiplicative variables: 1) Control values (Will this commitment make me more effective?), 2) Emotion or mood (Do I feel like it?); and 3) Personal agency (Can I do it? Will I be permitted to do it?). In stage two, estimates of task-specific self efficacy are hypothesized to be curvilinearily related to the mental effort people will invest in a work goal (in an inverted U). Notice how the “Do I feel like it?” mood question and “Will I be permitted to do it?” question relate to your effort to bring music into the workplace. Workers can feel empowered if they have a say in bringing music into their workplace and in choosing the kinds of music they listen to. Consequently, some types of work are appropriate for individuals to listen with headphones, some to listen to that piped in, and workers with other types of jobs may find music interferes with their ability to hear or concentrate.

Please share with us a summary of what you learn about how music benefits the workplace. The way musicians get lost in and caught up in the music they produce is the kind of enthusiasm that you and I want to experience while we work, whatever the task. Your effort to bring music back into your workplace is what we call thinking WEGO.

William Gorden