Robert Leeming: Is Beethoven the answer to the UK’s lagging productivity problem?

Share this story
Listening to Beethoven at work could well be a route to bettering your productivity
Listening to Beethoven at work could well be a route to bettering your productivity

Today would have been Ludwig van Beethoven’s 245th birthday. Two centuries on from his death, the melancholic German composer’s music is still very much alive, not only in the concert hall, but in digital and social media. The complete works of Beethoven can be dipped into liberally via Spotify and today, to mark the great man’s birthday, Google has launched one of its famous ‘doodles’ on its homepage.

Beethoven was a creative genius, that is beyond doubt, but the perfect notes that define his oeuvre did not come to him easily. The original manuscripts of his work are full of crossings out and scribbles and he wouldn’t leave his room for weeks on end as he fought to find the next right note. Even for Beethoven, concentration was hard to maintain and inspiration was difficult to find, so what chance do us mere mortals have?

Struggles 

Well, the music that Beethoven and composers of his ilk struggled so heartily to create can be of help to us. Research has proved time and again that classical music betters concentration. In a study for Applied Ergonomics ‘ Music – an aid to productivity’ a series of experiments into the relationship between the playing of background music during the performance of repetitive work were carried out.

Beethoven's frenetic crossings out on the original manuscripts of his work
Beethoven’s frenetic crossings out on the original manuscripts of his work

The results of the study were telling and gave strong support to the notion that economic benefits flow from the use of music in industry by acting to speed up productivity.The study also found that music raises efficiency even when in competition with, say, unfavourable conditions produced by machine noise in a factory.

Mood

It is also beyond doubt that music lifts the mood of employees. Teresa Lesiuk of the University of Windsor in Canada in her study ‘The effect of music listening on work performance’ measured the effect music had on the quality of work done by systems developers. Lesiuk found that listening to music prompted a positive mood change and enhanced perceptions. Not only this, but it actually took the developers longer to complete tasks after the music was removed.

Is the use of classical music in the workplace, particularly in industry, the key to solving the UK’s lagging productivity problem? Is Beethoven a weapon to use against the threat of an economic slow-down? Well, the evidence suggests music could well help and, after all, when is listening to Beethoven a bad thing?

So in the spirit of Beethoven’s birthday and in the interests of bettering your productivity, here is Leonard Bernstein’s take on the 9th Symphony. Happy Birthday Maestro!

Music an aid to productivity: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0003687072901019

The effect of music listening on work performance: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/business/LESIUKarticle2005.pdf

 

Help Keep HRreview Free with a Small Donation





Post Comment