Listening To Music At Work

What’s the best way to listen to music at work? It’s a question I have to wrestle with every couple of months since I started working in a real office.

For example, I was in the middle of Nicki’s first verse in “Anaconda” when one of my employees turned her head and asked me what I was listening to. It had never occurred to me that other people would not have the same appreciation for Minaj as I did. However, I finally had to admit that Onika, and many of her songs, were not exactly appropriate for work.

It was not the first time I had forgotten about my music preferences while on the job, nor the last.

I was blasting Evanescence, Amy Lee’s voice filling my office, when someone came in for a meeting. I was bopping my head to Madonna when a student came by to ask me a question. I was singing along to Taylor Swift when the mailman dropped off a document on my desk. I had to figure out the difference between listening to music while I work and working while I listen to music.

I take listening to music for granted. I’m so used to having something on. Whether it’s Pandora, Spotify, Beats, Apple Radio, Rdio, or even my own library via Google Play, I’m used to listening to something while I work. I vacillate between music services the way crabs scuttle between sea and shore, which is to say, constantly. I constantly have something on. Most of the time, my music is innocuous. Most people are not going to be offended by Vivaldi or Bach or Tchaikovsky. While I appreciate classical music for background, it has a tendency to make me sleepy. So I switched to something more modern but equally wordless: The Glitch Mob, Beats Antique, DeadMau5, Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, and so on. I found electronic music really effective for boosting my productivity.

Because it gets kind of lonely working in silence all day.

My propensity for this is basic multi-tasking, listening to music while doing anything else, started almost a decade ago. My commute to school was 40 minutes to an hour long, so I’d plug into my CD player (yes, a CD player!), take out a book, and just read for the whole trip. I wanted to be like those teenagers I read about or saw on TV shows, the ones in sweaters and Apple earbuds tucked into the sides off their head. I listened to music while I walked, in between classes, in the shower, before bed, in the morning.

But listening to music can be tricky at work, especially when a bunch of songs you like are about stupid hoes, big dicks, and being a bitch. I don’t think I’d be fired if my boss overhead some of my playlists, but people have been let go for less.

So what’s the best way to approach listening to music while at work? (I should mention that I’m listening to Florence + The Machine’s new album as I’m writing this).

Well, you could not. It’s the simplest solution, but also the most boring. There’s just something about music that makes my work more interesting. Yes, I have to write this report of my budgets, but there’s no logical reason I can’t do that while also jamming to “7/11.”

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You could listen to your music quietly, which is a good compromise between silence and distraction.

Something I’ve just started doing is making work playlists. Maybe I’m behind on the times, but I finally figured that, just in case my boss does come into my office to check on me, I should have a non-scandalous list of songs playing at all times at a fairly reasonable volume. Usually, it’s a bunch of electronic stuff with a bunch of Vivaldi mixed in.

What you’re able to do with music at work, though, ultimately depends on your work situation. If you have your own office (as I do) and your supervisor is in an entirely different suite (like mine) and sometimes your supervisor forgets that you work for her (also like mine), then you can probably get away with a lot more. If you have a cubicle with co-workers nearby, then volume might be your primary concern, but you’ll want to do what you can to build goodwill with your neighbors. If you have an open office, then you might want to get a good pair of headphones, the kind that won’t leak too much noise.

Being an “Adult With A Job,” while great, can also be terribly boring. Listening to music while making (another) spreadsheet can make it just a little bit better.

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