Listen to the Music

Mark L. Johnson / February 2019

Don’t you feel it growin’ day by day
People gettin’ ready for the news
Some are happy
Some are sad
Whoa
But gonna let the music play

— The Doobie Brothers

No doubt about it. Playing music at work can boost your productivity. The right beat helps you work fast and with focus. Good tunes ease the load of humdrum tasks, infuse the soul with energy and create a positive mood.
    
So, why don’t more wall and ceiling contractors let their crews play tunes while they work? How many of you allow crews to wear Beats headsets or Bose earpods on the job? If you do, that’s great. But, construction seems behind other industries in this area. For example, only 46 percent of construction workers wear headphones on the job, whereas 60 to 70 percent of workers in other industries sport headsets while they work.
    
Let’s see why working to the beat can be profitable.

Positive Mood Alteration
Researchers have long known that background music can make repetitive tasks easier for workers. The December 1972 Applied Ergonomics said that music played during periods of repetitive work improves employee efficiency.
    
However, music doesn’t just filter out background sounds and distractions. It does more. Music changes one’s frame of mind so as to think more positive thoughts. That in turn leads to more productive work sessions.
    
A 2005 study published in the Psychology of Music found that music created “positive mood alteration” among 56 software developers leading to more efficient work sessions for them. The same study found that music reduces worker anxiety, a further performance benefit.

Which Music Is Best?
According to science, Classical Music is best for your body and brain.
    
However, a Cloud Cover Music survey of 962 employees working for 43 companies found that the musical genre perceived to boost productivity the most is not Classical Music, but Classic Rock. That’s right, “let the music play.” Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and The Doobie Brothers can help your framers, rockers and tapers cover more ground each day.
    
Which music is the most distracting to workers? Hip-hop. But, Heavy Metal is a close second, Cloud Cover Music says.
    
Beyond Classic Rock, researchers say you should match the tempo with the task. If your goal for the day is production, choose a playlist of songs with a deep, rhythmic base. For detailed precision work, choose more mellow tunes from a collection of Pop, Easy Hits or Chill.
    
You almost can’t go wrong choosing music that has special meaning for you. Songs that you identify with, that were part of your upbringing and that have remained important anthems in your life will surely put you in a good work rhythm, rev you up and enhance your output.

Seven Percent Less Oxygen
Of course, silence can be golden, especially for managers, estimators and writers like me. And in suggesting that installation crews play music on the job, be careful that the music doesn’t compete with good safety practices. I wouldn’t want a drywaller wearing noise-canceling headphones to be injured if he could have been warned otherwise to sidestep a fall hazard.
    
At the same time, Scientific American said in 2013 that the right music “persuades people to ride out waves of exhaustion.” In other words, they won’t give up. The article was about effective workout music for the gym. I think it applies to construction work, too.
    
Interestingly, a 2012 Sheffield Hallam University study found that cyclists required 7 percent less oxygen to do the same work as cyclists who did not synchronize their musical playlists with their workout rhythms. In other words, music is a metronome. It can set the pace for work and allow one to burn less energy—if the pace of work matches the musical beat.
    
So, music is a good thing. I listened to Classic Rock while researching and composing this column, and I was able to bang it out in good time. Now it’s your turn to make an investment. You provide employees with tools and safety equipment. Are you now ready to give them some speakers and headsets?

Mark L. Johnson, an industry writer and music lover, can be reached via markjohnsoncommunications.com.