Every individual works differently. Some people thrive in a loud office where they can bounce off each other, whereas others prefer the delicate sound of silence. Science has been debating which is best for productivity for years but with no side coming up trumps. Music can have positive effects on mood, and it can be argued that happy people work more effectively. Playing classical music to babies can help with their cognitive development. However, when music is imposed on you then it can cause stress, imagine being forced to listen to a bit of heavy metal when you're more of a classical person or vice versa?
There is also the issue of licensing, to play music in the office you need first need a license from Performing Right Society (PRS) however listening through headphones is free. An office full of people with headphones maybe doesn’t create the best environment, though.
So, what is the answer? There is no simple answer, it depends on the strategy for the business and what environment you are trying to generate. If you are trying to create an atmosphere of openness and creativity, then having music playing throughout the office can help enhance this, as music is a creative medium. Personally, I feel the positive effects of music far outweighs any negatives and is a welcome addition to the workplace.
Whether or not we realize it on a conscious level, music is a universal language. It’s as old as time, it communicates what words alone cannot, and it speaks to each and every one of us in a deeply personal way. The tragedy of music, then, is how often it’s used casually – as background noise, as something to fill a few empty hours, or simply because we can’t abide silence. However, research on the subject of music may have revealed it to be something pretty surprising: a productivity tool.