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Radio dread: is music in the workplace delightful or distracting?

Posted in: Employing people, Managing people
799 comment

Facing a division in your workplace over the radio? According to our Sage People Advice team you’re not alone.

Facing the musicRadio poll

Is there anything more diverse than musical taste? Most of us would like to think we’ve got the best record collection or iTunes library going, however in reality we all like different things – your favourite Lionel Richie song probably isn’t as loved by others as you’d like to think.

Unless you’re someone who likes to play music loudly on public transport, for the most part we can keep our music tastes to ourselves, enjoying it in the privacy of our own homes and cars, or with headphones in.

But what happens when a group of people with different tastes listen to music together? What if you turned the radio on at work?

Music to their ears

On our Facebook page, we recently posed the question, “Do you think the radio should be on in the workplace?”.

The results made for interesting reading: a massive 72% of respondents said “Yes, it helps to pass the time”, while just 24% replied with “No, I can’t concentrate and my colleagues have terrible taste in music”. The remaining 2% just couldn’t decide.

If three-quarters of employees want the radio on at work, then surely it’s a good idea? Some employers may still worry that productivity could drop as people get distracted; however recent research suggests the opposite.

Business professor Ravi Mehta, of the University of Illinois has recently released the results of an experiment into finding the perfect environment for work and creativity. He concluded that “moderate background noise” both enhances creative problem-solving and leads to a greater adoption of innovative products. “It turns out that around 70 decibels is the sweet spot. If you go beyond that, it’s too loud, and the noise starts to negatively affect creativity. It’s the Goldilocks principle – the middle is just right.”

Don’t just play it by ear

Workplaces vary, and background noise won’t be welcome or acceptable in some, but for others, the advantages seem clear: the radio can help motivation, mental stimulation, productivity and creativity.

However, the type of material that you’re listening to is a major factor to consider. A station playing non-stop speed metal is likely to annoy more people that is motivates, so if you want to have the radio on in your workplace, it’s a good idea to take a vote on which station to play, or have a rota system in place.

A classical station may help to calm and focus your workforce, while one playing pop hits, combined with chatty banter might keep motivation up. Alternatively, perhaps a news or sport-based talk radio station might work best for your workforce.

Whatever you decide, it’s important that everyone who’d be able to hear the radio is happy with the idea. Some roles need more concentration that others, and decreasing workers’ productivity is obviously the last thing you’d want to do.

Remember though, if you play music audibly to your employees and customers, it is considered a public performance. This means that you’ll need a PRS for Music licence to get permission from the copyright owners.

What have your experiences been when music and work collide? Let us know in the comments below!

Jenny Graham, Sage People Advice Team

Posted in: Employing people, Managing people
799 comment


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