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ANSWERED on Thu 13 Oct 2016 - 12:19 am UTC by David Sarokin

Question: The distracting power of music/talk radio?

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 11 Oct 2016 16:06 UTCTue 11 Oct 2016 - 4:06 pm UTC 

I have many employees who listen to various things during the day. They are knowledge workers (IT Support Specialists) so they are not pressing a red button on a machine, they need to act with thought in all things they do.

I'm wondering about the productivity impact of -

1) Them listening to music while they work
2) Them listening to talk radio or podcasts while they work
3) Them listening to a video/potentially having it in a window on another screen while they work

Are they damaging their productivity by doing any of those things, and if so, how?

I also think that the work type is key, I imagine the distraction impact could be different from somebody doing something rote vs doing something that requires thought each time.


David Sarokin 


 12 Oct 2016 01:37 UTCWed 12 Oct 2016 - 1:37 am UTC 


From a first look, it seems like there isn't a readily generalizable answer to your question. Whether listening to music hurts or helps seems to depend on the listener, the ambient environment, the task at hand, the type of music, and perhaps some other things.

Here's a pretty good overview of some of the thinking on this topic:

How Music Affects Your Productivity

It seems quite possible that a listener could relegate some types of music to the background as they work on their task. It's harder to see that happening with talk radio. However, even there, for a certain type of worker that needs to divert themselves every few minutes in order to let a problem stew in the background a bit, having talk radio or a video to turn to might be just the ticket.

Let us know if this sort of article is helpful to you, and we'll see what more we can find.





 12 Oct 2016 17:02 UTCWed 12 Oct 2016 - 5:02 pm UTC 

I agree entirely with David's link.  I spend too much time at the computer while listening to the radio, most of it dong something by rote, recently doing some difficult translations.  Baroque and familiar classical music are great for that.  Doing less demanding stuff, I can listen to lighter stuff, never banal talk, even follow commentaries or discussions that I find interesting. But don't ask me later what was said; if I still know, I was distracted from what I was doing.

It would be interesting to observe a person at a "by rote" activity, listening to the same talk, and see if if the person slacks off, when it becomes more interesting, ditto for a video. 

As David mentions, certain types of workers may be helped by letting themselves be diverted by talk or video. Tearing one's eyes away from screen is more difficult.  From my experience, getting away from the desk for a couple of minutes is more helpful.

Now the news on the radio is distracting me.  Myo


JD Umiat 


 12 Oct 2016 17:10 UTCWed 12 Oct 2016 - 5:10 pm UTC 

Hi, scavenger!

 While not definitive in their conclusions, the following articles might be helpful.
 The effect of music listening on work performance

 Radio in the workplace: a liminal medium between work and leisure

 Effects of background music on concentration of workers

 Background music: effects on attention performance

 The Effect of Background Music, Speech and Silence on Office Workers' Selective Attention

 The Effect of Radios on Workplace Productivity

 Open-plan offices affect employees' ability to concentrate, new study finds
 Workers who spend a lot of time on tasks requiring focus find them difficult to complete when too close to colleagues






 12 Oct 2016 21:16 UTCWed 12 Oct 2016 - 9:16 pm UTC 

David, thats basically perfect!




 12 Oct 2016 21:17 UTCWed 12 Oct 2016 - 9:17 pm UTC 

Just about the only thing not addressed is lyrics in music vs. talking in a podcast or radio show...any information on if podcast/radio is more distracting than lyrics in music?

Then we could basically call it closed with all the links in that first article.


David Sarokin 


 13 Oct 2016 00:19 UTCThu 13 Oct 2016 - 12:19 am UTC 


As always, thanks for accepting our information. Here's a bit more.

This article:

Are there studies on employees’ concentration and productivity levels with regard to listening to talk radio stations or music while working?

is by a knowledgeable author who is unaware of any studies about the impact of listening to talk radio while at work (it's a few years old, but I haven't seen any recent mentions either).

This article states that background noise -- whether music or chatter -- can be conducive to work, though volume is an important factor:

Having music on at work actually makes people MORE productive - background noise stimulates the mind -- Library-like silence is 'not good' for creativity

Lastly, the positivity or negativity of news or talk affects worker mood and can influence productivity:

Consuming Negative News Can Make You Less Effective at Work

though this report doesn't distinguish news heard at work from news heard beforehand.

Hope these help. Let me know if you need anything more.





 13 Oct 2016 00:22 UTCThu 13 Oct 2016 - 12:22 am UTC 

always excellent.


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