May 19th, 2006


Can personal stereos improve productivity?

Can personal stereos improve productivity?

Greg R. Oldham
In today's workforce, managers are often challenged to improve employee productivity. Providing music to employees via personal stereo headsets such as the Sony Walkman is one strategy that may help achieve that goal.

Personal stereos and headsets have grown in popularity so much in the past 20 years that they can now be found in nearly every imaginable setting, from health clubs to libraries. However, they are seldom found in the workplace. Most employees do not have the option listening to music on headsets while they work. This is not to suggest that music is seldom played at work. On the contrary, some estimates indicate that over 135,000 businesses worldwide use music at work. But these businesses typically provide music via background systems -- not stereo headsets. With background systems, speakers located in ceilings and walls throughout the workplace provide one type of music programming to all employees at the same time. Employees have little choice but to listen to the music that has been selected for their particular work shift.

The benefits of music

The effects of background music systems have been studied extensively in independent research as well as in studies sponsored by firms that market the systems, such as the Muzak company. Most studies show a productivity increase of about 5 percent after background systems have been installed.

Why does music have this effect? Advocates offer two explanations. One is that music elevates or enhances employees' moods. Proponents argue that music boosts enthusiasm, increases relaxation and lessens nervousness, and that these elevated mood states contribute to higher productivity. The second explanation is that music masks distracting sounds, such as extraneous conversations and machine sounds. When these sounds are masked, employees are better able to concentrate on their jobs, resulting in higher levels of productivity.

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Stone Golem

The Stone Golem: best costume ever.

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