The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: Music to work by...

Question: “I’ve been asked if we can have music piped through the building but it will cost a lot to install the equipment and I have doubts as to whether it’ll be beneficial. What do you suggest?” Andy

Answer: “We’ve all had experience of piped music that’s either incredibly annoying or distracting. Yet it’s still used. So what is the business case for it?

A survey by PRS found that 77% of small businesses play music in the workplace as it makes staff happier, and increases morale and productivity. Where the work is routine, repetitive or monotonous music or radio can keep the brain alert and improve the employee’s well-being. However, where the work is primarily phone based, background music can have a negative impact when talking to potential or existing customers. It can be distracting and prevents the employee catching the subtle nuances of tone and pitch necessary when communicating over the phone. So your decision depends on the work environment.

You should also consider the working styles and preferences of the workforce. Some find it very difficult to concentrate when there’s external noise, particularly if it’s speech. Be aware then that there may be a temporary dip in productivity and performance whilst people learn to “screen out” the noise. You would need to put in place steps to manage this.

So what is it that’s driving this request? Is it coming from a small group of employees and are there other ways to deal with the issues raised? If, after consideration, you are more inclined to install a system, incorporate it as part of your communication strategy. Survey your employees as to what should be streamed so they are involved in the decisions and keep it under review. And if you do go down the music route, make sure you have the relevant licences.”

Laura is an organisation development specialist and executive coach with mtc2 ltd.  To solve your problem email Twitter @WayfinderWoman Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.