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Does wearing headphones at work boost productivity? Survey says ‘yes’

Wearing headphones to listen to music, podcasts, news and talk radio can boost productivity. At least, that’s what one survey suggests.

But wait. Before you forward this to your boss or HR department, read through to the end. We’re going to tell you why we’re a little skeptical about this survey.

Cloud Cover Music surveyed around 1,000 people, and their findings suggest that a little more than half (56%) of employees use headphones while working, and the majority said wearing headphones contributes to their productivity. What are they listening to? Almost all say they listen to music (94%), followed by radio (42%), podcasts (35%), news (25%), audiobooks (15%) and sports (15%).

How headphones help with distractions

What’s one of the biggest things that keeps employees from doing their jobs? Distractions. Who often creates these distractions? Coworkers. The Cloud Cover Music survey, suggests that wearing headphones may be as good as do-not-disturb signs.

Every workplace has that one Chatty Cathy who prefers to talk your ear off rather than dive into a task. Of those surveyed, 46% said they use headphones to avoid chatty coworkers.

The logic suggests that if you don a pair of headphones to deter others from roping you into conversations, you’ll cut down on temptations to gossip, complain or waste time – thus, increasing productivity.

If you work in a noisy area with others talking, heavy machinery, or distracting background noises, these things can cause you to lose focus, but blocking it out can – and that’s one of the biggest reasons people listen to anything through headphones at work.

Wearing headphones can help make working fun. If you’re doing routine, tasks like sorting through data, cleaning and organizing, or web development, adding your favorite music, podcast or white noise to the mix can take your mind off tiresome tasks and even help you soldier on to the end. The work day will be done before you know it.

Does listening to music increase productivity?

The Cloud Cover Music survey found, in fact, that nearly 80% of employees and employers who responded felt that listening to music improved their overall productivity in general. A similar study reported in Business Insider suggested that software designers who listen to music while working had higher quality work and more positive moods.

With all this evidence, why are we skeptical? Cloud Cover Music is a streaming service, so of course they’re going to make a strong case for the benefits of listening to music all day. Also, their measurement of productivity was based on self-reported answers by 1,000 survey respondents. Who isn’t going to say, yes, of course I’m more productive when I listen to music?

The bottom line: Wearing headphones might make some people more productive, but it depends on the type of work, the work environment and the type of music. We’d like to see how people perform after listening to eight hours of death metal compared to a day of smooth jazz and classical music.

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