It is my Friday Lay Day blog and it is going to be relatively quick. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal (December 23, 2015) – Economists Say ‘Bah! Humbug!’ to Christmas Presents – that says a lot about how my profession struggles to appreciate reality in all its dimensions. Every year, it…
Its my Friday lay day blog – a short blog today about music at work. Building on yesterday’s blog – Self-imposed corporate regulations control workers but choke productivity – which told the story of an increasing imposition of productivity choking workplace rules and procedures that capitalists use to control their workers. A classic manifestation of these workplace changes has been the increased use of open-plan offices (abandoning private offices) and so-called hot desking. This is a very alienating environment for workers and research has shown that if workers have access to music while they work that they choose, they get through the day in better shape. Cue the turntable! Pablo Moses on. Start typing.
The most thorough research on this topic has been carried out by Dr Anneli B. Haake from the University of Sheffield school of music as part of her doctoral research studies.
Her main article on the topic (derived from her PhD) – Individual music listening in workplace settings: an exploratory survey of offices in the UK – was published in the Musicae Scientiae journal in 2011.
Early research work in this area focused heavily on so-called ‘functional music’, which was “(popular) music created for workers”, aka canned music, which functions as “wallpaper”.
But the top ten most frequently reported artists in Dr Haake’s study are certainly not canned. None of them are on my list. The number 1 was Arctic Monkeys and number 10 Red Hot Chili Peppers.
BBC Radio 1 was the most listened to radio station.
The main findings of her research are that while the capacity to listen to music helped workers “manage other distractions in the office environment” and helped them relax, the benefits were forthcoming only when the worker exercised discretion over the situation.
The benefits were not forthcoming when the music was imposed on them. The research found that:
… some commercial music suppliers target employees to provide classical music for stress relief in offices … Listening to classical music was not necessarily related to greater levels of relaxation. Instead, experiences of control have emerged in the data as a powerful and important aspect of music listening as relaxation, as self-selected music provided employees with a sense of control over their surroundings and emotions.
So if the bosses think they can impose some insipid canned classical music on their workers to relax them as they restructure their workplaces, increase surveillance and reporting and otherwise attempt to demean their working conditions, think again. Workers are smart enough to see that imposition as just another control strategy.
If you really want workers to be happy – let them rock at their own pace.
The topic was covered in today’s Fairfax press – Is music important at work?
I would not easily survive in an open-plan office environment. I tend to have records or CDs playing or the radio on while I work. I find it sets up a nice atmosphere and helps me concentrate. When there is sport on (football mainly) I also like to have a TV going if I can with the sound down and the commentary coming off the radio. This mix is not for some but works for me.
So – this is what I have been listening to today
It is from Jamaican artist – Pablo Moses – and was first published on his 1975 album – Revolutionary Dream – which still happily spins on my turntable where I am working today. One of my favourite records in fact.
The song – I Man a Grasshopper – was recorded in Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s famous Black Ark Studio and engineered by Geoffrey Chung. The exceptional guitar playing is from the Michael Murray, who played in one version of the Trenchtown Showband the In Crowd. The In Crowd, by the way, made one big record – We Play Reggae – which according to my taste was largely forgettable.
In this 2010 interview, Pablo Moses explains the origins of the song.
It kept me typing today anyway!
The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2014 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.