Following on from how music informs our experience in eateries, we’re looking at how it plays a role in the office – starting with our own. Research conducted by MindLab International showed that people actually work better when listening to music, and, when carry out tasks for the research, the most mistakes were made when workers weren’t listening to any music at all. It seems silence is more distracting than music.
So, from EDM to whale song via 90s club tunes, we look at what our staff love and hate, and how we can better the musical experience at Rufus Leonard.
Confession: about how our playlists are taking the path of least resistance. We kind of default to a range of EDM through the ages, some alt rock and a few arguably divisive wild cards thrown in like the Moana theme tune.
We needed a change. Something more designed, and good design always starts with research. So we sent out a survey, complete with expertly crafted lyrical questions, asking staff their opinions on the current music situation at Rufus Leonard. The responses? All over the place. If we learnt anything, though, it’s that there are some pretty strong opinions floating round the office when it comes to music. And not to give our staff space to add their own comments on a survey - it got very sarcastic, very quickly.
Starting simple, with how staff feel about the current playlist, 56% responded “You’re hot then you’re cold (you’re yes then you’re no)” suggesting our music choices are a little bit hit and miss. With it ranging from EDM to Disney soundtracks we can’t really blame them. One member of staff called it ‘garbage’ (we cherish your honesty) while another took the opportunity to play us at our own lyric game, and rickroll us.
Then came the question of what our staff do, and don’t like to hear. Some love house, “good house, real house – the stuff Frankie Knuckles would approve of”; some definitely don’t, with house popping up multiple times when staff were asked what tunes they could do without hearing. There are mixed opinions on EDM, though those on the side of scrapping “screeching EDM” (not that we know tonnes about EDM, but apparently Swedish House Mafia are a no go) definitely win this one. Reggae and 90s tunes split Rufus staff, as did chart tunes, with someone wanting more and someone asking that we stop the “mainstream rock & pop.” Someone just wanted songs they know – whatever that may be. And there were personal digs - someone really hates ABBA, and someone else would rather not hear “the dude from The XX” again.
It wasn’t all moaning and sarcasm; there were nice, reasonable responses, too, with one person asking for “stuff that’s new to me – other Rufian’s faves which could turn into my new faves.” But for everyone that loves soul there’s someone who hates it (all soul? Otis Redding and Corrine Bailey Rae are quite a different proposition); for every request for Laura Marling and The Villagers, there’s someone calling for the axing of “miserable folk” (happy folk it is then). It would seem it’s impossible to please everyone. It also seems that maybe some of us could branch out more.
In an attempt to find an answer, we looked into what music we should be playing in the office, what could increase concentration and productivity, and, typically, what the internet suggested was exactly what our staff didn’t want. Classical music supposedly boosts “abstract reasoning ability”, though the thought of listening to classical was met with an “FML” from one member of staff; nature sounds, white noise and instrumental music are thought to increase concentration, but they’ve all been snubbed. So we’re left with ‘pump up’ songs and video game soundtracks. We’ll pitch both, but really what we’ve found is that no one playlist fits all. You wouldn’t expect the same playlist in a hospital waiting room as you would at a creative agency, but you also wouldn’t expect the same on a Monday morning as a Friday afternoon, even in the same office. So where do we go from here?
What we do know is that marginally more people (it’s a 46.2%/54.8% split) at Rufus would rather listen to music out loud, than shutting off from the rest of the office with noise cancelling headphones. So they can’t dislike it that much. We just need to work out what to play. We also know that bar one person thinking collaborative playlists are “like choosing food from a menu that is far, far, far too long,” most of our staff are fully on board with them, loving the idea of themed playlists which everyone can contribute to.
And what about the clients? While a lot of our staff feel the playlist gives off a good impression, some feel as though it perhaps doesn’t do anything, questioning if clients even pay attention to it. So perhaps that gives us a direction – making the playlist more of a feature at Rufus, rather than hit and miss background music. The playlist should, as someone suggest, indicate that we have an “eye out for new trends and influences.” Maybe a focus on new music (not too mainstream though) is the way forward.
Whatever the solution, we definitely need to look further into how music shapes the Rufus experience, and how to ensure we’re perceived how we wish to be, while also ensuring our staff’s heads aren’t about to explode. So, definitely no screeching EDM.