Get a workday boost from music and art

Most of us listen to music and enjoy other forms of art when we’re off-duty. But it might not be a feature of your average workday, unless you’re a professional culture vulture. Yet research shows that music and art in the workplace can make us more positive and productive. And at this time of year, when some of us are battling with the back-to-work blues, this could be music to your ears.

Mood-boosting music

Dr Teresa Lesiuk, associate professor in music therapy at the University of Miami has researched how music can affect performance at workThis included a study that found IT specialists who listened to music finished their work quicker and had more creative ideas than those who didn’t. Why? Because their mood was enhanced. By putting you in a positive frame of mind, melodies can help you to think in different ways. Good news if you want to bring your love of obscure mathcore to the office.

Dr Amit Sood, director of research and practice in integrative medicine at the Mayo Clinic, says that listening to pleasant sounds for just 15-30 minutes can help you concentrate better, and that tracks without lyrics usually work best. That’s because music can help you focus on the moment. You might want to wear your earphones though, one person’s easy listening can be another’s sonic torture. And who wants their colleagues to know about their love of cheese?

Listening to your favourite tunes makes you feel good because it causes the release of dopamine, the chemical messenger involved in the brain’s reward and pleasure centres. Dopamine is released in lots of situations, such as when we admire amazing artwork.

The powerful effect of art

Professor Semir Zeki, chair in neuroaesthetics at University College London, conducted an experiment to see what happens in the brain when we look at beautiful paintings. MRI scans on participants (who had little knowledge of art) showed that blood flow to the brain increased when people looked at appealing works. The more they liked a painting, the higher the increase in blood flow.

So how does this apply to our working lives? Dr Craig Knight, from the psychology department at the University of Exeter, conducted research showing that staff work 15% more efficiently in an office adorned with art and plants. So don’t forget to water that giant yucca. And when employees decorated their own office space, productivity increased by 30% (we always knew those goldfish posters had a purpose). It seems that having a say in how our working environment looks could really help improve performance.

Of course art takes many forms, from a sculpture, to a song, to a painting to a photo – the list goes on. We know these things make us feel good, but it’s nice to know that science proves it too. What better excuse to listen to your favourite playlist or brighten up your workspace – and it’s all in the name of productivity.

What do you think?

Do you listen to music at work?

Should art be a feature of your workplace?

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