Can Listening to Classical Music in the Office Increase Our Efficiency?

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Légende ou réalité : est-ce que la musique rend plus productif ?

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Posted on Sep 20, 2021, 11:48 AMUpdated Sep 20, 2021, 11:54 AM

Whether it motivates, calms or fills the silence, music is popular at work. Nearly eight in ten English people believe that music boosts their productivity, according to the latest study conducted by LinkedIn and Spotify in 2017. With or without words, the effects of music on our brain are multiple.

Among other things, it improves concentration. Whether in an open space or alone in front of your home office, music creates a sound bubble. “The attentional energy of our brain increases, which helps to stay ‘focus'”, explains Emmanuel Bigand, research professor in cognitive neurosciences at the University of Burgundy, member of the University Institute of London.

Stay tuned, work in progress

Another great interest of music in the office: it boosts creativity. Music activates certain areas of our brain which uninhibit us, while stimulating our capacity for associations. “If we listen to music before brainstorming, it’s proven, we will come up with more original ideas”, certifies the professor, author of the book “The Neuronal Symphony – why music is essential for the brain” (Ed. HumenSciences, 2021).

Music de-distresses, too. Proof of this is its presence in the infant anesthesia rooms of the Parisian hospitals Armand-Trousseau and Necker. Children, parents and caregivers can manipulate instruments, discover sounds and even improvise. After this conditioning, a musician accompanies the child to the operating room. As a result, the anesthesia is more successful and the children have a better experience of their hospital stay, according to Professor Sylvain Renolleau from the intensive care unit at Necker hospital interviewed by London Musique.

Body and mind, a real “orchestra”

If the effects of music on our body seem to be proven, what is really going on there? You should know that our organism is a real orchestra on its own: heartbeat, cerebral rhythm, lung breathing, blood circulation speed, cell vibration, nervous system pulsations … And schematically, let’s say that if the rhythms and the outside frequencies are fast, the body and the mind will try to adapt to the movement. On the contrary, if the music enters into correspondence with our biological rhythms, harmony reigns.

The pulse of an average human being between 60 and 80 beats per minute, if you listen to a song whose beats are closer together (an allegro for example whose tempo is between 120 and 168 beats per minute), you will feel boosted. . On the other hand, if we plug into slow tempo music, such as an adagio whose beats per minute are around 60, the effect will be tranquilizing.

The classic, better than the others?

Some composers like Bach were directly inspired by math to write their fugues, playing with the symmetry of notes and rhythms. Today, if there is one who relies on the effects of classical music on our minds, it is the entrepreneur Guillaume Descottes who has made a business out of it. Launched five years ago, its paid streaming platform specializing in classical (and jazz) called Vialma offers its 100,000 users, more than a million titles and thousands of playlists, depending on our activities, our geographical positions, our state of mind, etc.

In a very simplistic way, we can relate a type of music to an effect. Gregorian chants, based on the rhythms of the breath, are excellent for concentrating, meditating and calming down. Baroque (Bach, Vivaldi, to name just these two leaders of the movement) creates a stimulating environment for intellectual work, providing a sense of stability and order. The classic improves concentration, memory and spatial perception (the famous and controversial Mozart Effect – see box). Not recommended for work, the romantic (Chopin or Wagner in particular) exalts emotions.

Does Mozart make smarter?

Identified in 1993, the Mozart effect is a scientific hypothesis indicating that listening to his music improves for ten minutes our ability to locate and move objects in space. Result: those who listen to it have a better IQ. For nearly ten years, studies have multiplied to corroborate this hypothesis. But in 2001, researchers concluded that the effect is fictitious because it only occurs in those who love his music.

Fruit of deconstruction, arrhythmic cuts and improvisation, jazz is also praised for its creative virtues. “Jazz breaks codes, improvises and constantly surprises the brain. Our mind wanders, which favors associations of ideas or the imagination for example ”, explains Guillaume Descottes, who makes it a specific feature of his platform.

But not everything depends on the musical genre and its structure. The effects of music depend on the listener, their state of mind, context, environment, etc. – which adds to the complexity of the subject. Let us take two colleagues A and B: A was rocked by the songs of Edith Piaf (her father was a fan), therefore listening to one of her songs, impossible to concentrate because she experiences strong emotions. B has no emotional connection with the Kid, but he has heard her so much that her songs serve as background music for him, conducive to his concentration. In short, they react differently.

Don’t stop you now!

Depending on the people, their stories and the situations, you have to adapt the pieces well to the task at hand. When you have to read and synthesize a body of text in English, it is not recommended to listen to Queen – since the brain stimulated by the music automatically begins to calculate the rhythms and frequencies of the sounds heard, this which interferes with analytical work.

But if you work in a team, with a background sound (without headphones therefore), listen (for example) Don’t stop me now ”(the song that makes the happiest in the world!) From the same legendary English group can “Strengthen group cohesion”, emphasizes Emmanuel Bigand who pleads for the establishment of musical technical advisers in companies.

Only one thing is certain: the key is to love what you listen to. Because music produces, among other things, dopamine and endorphins, two hormones commonly linked to happiness and pleasure. And productivity follows.

Music, a doping product?

For the English Athletics Federation (FFA), certainly. In 2015, following in the footsteps of its American counterpart, the FFA banned music from athletes during competitions, while 60% said they listened to it during training. The instance is based on several scientific studies which demonstrate the improvement in performance, of the order of 5 to 7%, in music-loving runners.


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