Skip to content
Subscriber Only

The Science of Picking the Right Music at Work

Research proves it: Some songs help you concentrate, others make you chill.
relates to The Science of Picking the Right Music at Work
Photograph: Getty Images

Headphones at work are more than just a universal “Do Not Disturb” sign: They’re a must-have accessory for those squeezing as much productivity as possible out of the day. An extensive body of research shows what headphone wearers have known for years: When wielded the right way, music and noise can increase your output and make the workday go by faster. 

Research dating back decades has shown that listening to music can make repetitive boring tasks more enjoyable—and make workers tackling these tasks more productive. In a study done in 1995—well before the birth of the iPod—researchers at the University of Illinois found that listening to music with headphones made workers more effective, with the biggest jumps seen in simple, repetitive tasks such as data entry, where productivity rose by about a full 14 percent, while lifting workers’ moods.