Music at Work: Does it Work?

In a room full of about 100 employees who are wearing headsets and fielding calls, the 2002 song “Hot in Herre” by rap singer Nelly is pumped into the room through speakers on the ceiling. A woman rises, does an assortment of dance moves you might see at your local nightclub, and gives an open-mouthed grin and an exaggerated wink to her audience. A number of her coworkers rise and join her in this pantomime, emphatically dancing to the music. The only sound they make is to continue on with their calls.

This is how Karin Elmer, an admitted music fanatic from Inverary, recalls her days when she used to work at a local call centre. “It could be hard work,” she recounts. “Maybe 60% of the calls were miserable, so you needed to do something to revive yourself so you could clean your mind for the next call. And this way we needed less of a break in-between.”

This scene might sound like a managerial nightmare to some, but Elmer and her former coworkers could be on to something. Recently, one of the approaches to stress reduction at work has included music. Music has been cited as a way to manage tension and minimize stress. For example, Australian Monash University researchers Drs. Wendy Knight and Nikki Richard found that compared to those who worked in silence, people listening to relaxing music while preparing for a presentation showed a decrease in anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate.

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