A new study explores what music is really making remote workers more efficient.
When it's time for you to crack down and get some work done, what are you hitting play on?
One new study suggests that the days of easy-listening songs and smooth jazz playlists as the background music of the work week are gone. Instead, remote workers—who often prove to be more productive than those in the office setting—are turning to high-intensity tunes to get them through their never-ending to-do lists, rather than the typically advised classical tracks perceived to enhance productivity.
Historically, research has suggested that while listening to music can help improve efficiency, creativity, and even happiness when it comes to work, lyrics prove distracting for most people, making it difficult to focus on important tasks or retain new information.
It makes sense, then, that when you Google "productivity playlists," you get a whole lot of "scientifically backed" roundups of elevator-style music, nature sounds, and white noise. But for the mundane tasks, like constant email refreshes and responses or repetitive data entry, lyrics can actually aid in getting the task done by offering a break in the monotony.
With more people than ever working from home, Voices, a marketplace for voice-over talent, was curious to see what music was helping remote employees make it through the workday. Using the Spotify API, which allows programs to retrieve and manage Spotify data online, they compiled the artists and songs that appear most frequently on user-generated work-from-home playlists in a new study.
Between the 98 playlists identified, the team evaluated 25,854 songs by 6,552 different artists, logging not only their frequency across lists but also differentiating the artists' genres and each song's valence, instrumentalness, energy, tempo, and key.
Here's what they found:
Superstar Taylor Swift sits in the number one slot for top artists, commanding people's remote work playlists.
Taking up residence in the second spot is former One Directioner Harry Styles.
But while Swift took the top artist slot overall, not a single one of her tracks made it into the top 25 songs included across playlists. Harry Styles took three of the top five spots, with Glass Animals and The Beatles taking the other two. And despite evidence that music with lyrics may be detrimental to the task at hand, not a single instrumental track made it into the top songs, with only 23 percent total of the music studied having no lyrics.
Voices confirmed the dying genre of easy listening, with less than 2 percent of remote workers putting artists that fall under the category on their work playlists. Instead, remote employees are turning up the pop, which made up 30.3 percent of the playlists, dance/EDM (17.8 percent), and rock (16.2 percent), with the average tempo hitting 118 beats per minute.
It seems as though these listeners are favoring their personal preferences over the "scientifically" suggested classical tracks perceived to enhance productivity; it's the music we already love that helped us to be more productive all along. And it turns out familiarity is actually better for focus, as you're not distracting yourself by trying to learn new lyrics or follow along with the story of the song.
If you're ready to build your own WFH list of jams, check out the full results of Voices' study on remote work playlists, and feel free to ask your resident Swiftie for recommendations if necessary!