For many of us working from home is a new experience, and it has come with quite a few unexpected surprises. Some of them are really positive (such as removing the daily commute), whereas some aren’t so great (being away from friends and colleagues). However, after a few months, many of us have settled into a routine. And, part of that routine often includes setting and maintaining our new WFH playlist.
With no colleagues around, we now have total freedom to pick our favourite tunes, podcasts, big hits and unknown gems. We can pick the music which inspires creativity, relaxes our minds and helps us to focus. So, we were wondering, what else is everyone else listening to whilst working from home, and does it change depending on the person’s career choice?
To find out, we used some handy Spotify mining tools to dig deep into the topic, investigating the kinds of music that people across a range of roles like listening to when working from home. We analysed playlist names, before cross-referencing thousands of songs to find the most popular tracks featured across these playlists.
Check out our findings below and see if you're in sync with any of your profession's listening habits.
Overall, remote workers were big on their pop music released from the last two years, with a couple of absolute 80s classics thrown in for a retro touch. And a quick glance at the song titles ("Work From Home, "9 to 5", along with Rhianna's "Work") shows where employees' focus is during these unprecedented times. "Don't Stand So Close To Me" by The Police even made it in at No. 13 – a cheeky nod to the social distancing we're all following right now.
While it wasn't the loudest music, which certainly helps to avoid distractions, Spotify's stats show high levels of energy and danceability, keeping us motivated with a steady BPM throughout the day.
Listen on Spotify: Start Playlist
We turned to Lee Chambers MSc MBPsS, an Environmental Psychologist and Wellbeing Consultant, to glean some inside knowledge about music's effect on the way we work and approach our jobs going forward. He says:
"Music can have a positive impact on our productivity, mood and motivation. This is likely due to the fact that music can have a dopaminergic effect on our brain, which stimulates the pre-frontal cortex, improving our cognitive performance.”
"With music being so individual, there is no single playlist that works for everybody, but we have started to see trends in genres that are more beneficial than others.
One type of music that has become clear we should avoid is familiar vocal music that's heavily lyric-driven, which we're likely to become distracted by. Some experts favour instrumental and classical music for a lower chance of distraction, or music that we enjoy with low lyrical or beat arousal for dopamine stimulation.”
"From a general viewpoint, if you carry out repetitive work, enjoyable, upbeat and more complex music heightens your alertness, keeps you motivated and boosts your mood. Problem-solving work is complex, and complex music competes for your mental resources; simpler, lower tempo music can avoid distraction and attention fatigue.
"That said, preference, enjoyment, beat and lyrics all come together with the task to help shape a playlist that works for each individual’s productivity.”
"Because music can trigger dopamine release, it feels like a pleasant experience, lifting your mood. Upbeat musical patterns can affect our auditory cortex, promoting positive emotions. Though personal preference is a strong indicator, stronger rhythmic beats with a fast tempo can generate excitement; carefree, upbeat lyrics can boost contentment, and slower melodic songs where the tempo slows can be relaxing.”
"Higher noise levels tend to decrease your cognitive abilities. A noise level of 95 decibels has caused a drop in mental processing across a number of studies, and also affects visual and auditory processing.
"Current research would suggest that music played between 30 and 60 dBa would be beneficial.”
As eclectic and varied as you'd expect from a role that needs to get its creative juices flowing, the designers' top 10 featured a blend of electronica, trip hop and psychedelic indie pop amongst others. While the likes of Massive Attack, Childish Gambino and Bonobo might not be the most suitable office music, the energy and diversity on display – much of it shorn of acoustic instrumentation of any kind – is right up designers' streets. A touch of R&B and pop helps to keep things varied throughout their day too.
The techy, meticulous work of developers needs something with a strong, stable energy to it so they can lock into a rhythm while working. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they preferred a selection of ambient electronica and danceable electro songs, all things bleep and bloop-based that let them zone out and focus on the task at hand. Even the rock stuff that proved popular tended to be more on the rhythmic/electronic side of things, showing that developers are all about adding a pulse to their working days.
Pairing "Sweet Home Alabama" with Montell Jordan's evergreen R&B banger "This Is How We Do It" might not be to everyone's tastes, but for HR, it's just another day at the office (well, home office). Varied and eclectic, those working in human resources like things with high energy and something danceable, and since no one's going be watching, we say cut loose and throw some shapes. After you've screened the potential candidates for those upcoming roles, of course.
Those working in PR may like to slow the tempo down, but they've seriously cranked up the classics: Daryl Hall & John Oates, Prince, Aretha Franklin, and a little band called The Beatles populate a playlist that would surely go down well with just about anyone. On the more millennial front, Drake and Ed Sheeran add some street cred, propped up with number ten's 1993 classic, the legendary "It Was A Good Day" by Ice Cube. Never mind working from home, this PR playlist could get the (socially distanced) party started.
Listen on Spotify: Start Playlist
Scoring big on popularity, marketers were more than happy to throw on something high tempo while working through their tasks. Big names from the last year like Billie Eilish and Post Malone make this one of the more modern playlists, perhaps a reflection of the outgoing, up-to-date inclinations the profession demands. They did, however, make time for the Beatles because, let's be honest, who doesn't?
Spanning a range of decades, the typical accountant playlist is pretty cut and dry, with a top 10 made up exclusively of popular rock and hip-hop, which might make for an odd mix on paper. TOTO's "Africa" next to Biggie's "Juicy", "Hotel California" and Jay-Z & Linkin Park's all-time classic "Numb/Encore"? Sounds strange, but we're sure the diversity fires up accountants' number crunching thanks to strong BPMs and big danceability.
Another profession that prefers its diversity, recruiters like their 90s R&B and rap with a mix of classics from Fleetwood Mac and Dolly Parton. Throw in some more recent pop and indie rock (plus a dollop of Talking Heads) and we have the recruiter's recipe for a work-from-home playlist that's full of energy to power them through the day. And who doesn't feel motivated when "9 to 5" is booming out of your speakers?
A cursory glance at the titles to sales peoples' most listened to songs should clue you in on how they like to work. "9 to 5", "Know Your Worth" and "Eye of the Tiger" are all big, powerful tunes, setting salespeople up for a day of high-energy, highly motivated work. The tempo is the highest out of all the other professions, with salespeople requiring a fast pace across all the music they listen to, which tends to be a mix of new favourites and iconic 80s power anthems.
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