Listening to music at work is one pleasure that can be enjoyed while trying to get the job done. In fact, you may feel like you are able to be more productive when you’re wearing your headphones or cranking the speakers.

You wouldn’t be wrong to feel this way, because scientific studies have shown a correlation between listening to music and enhanced mood, cognitive ability, and productivity. So by listening to music, you could actually get more done and feel better while you’re doing it!

In this post we get into what you should keep an ear out for when making musical selections, some genres to explore, and we even offer up some gear recommendations to help you enjoy music at the office.

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Pick out your “Work” Music

To enhance brain function and productivity, it is important to listen to music that exhibits certain traits. Because picking the wrong songs can have the opposite effect and may actually be a distraction.

Ideally, you will enjoy the music you’re listening to. If you don’t, then it could annoy and distract you. So, you shouldn’t force yourself to try something from a genre you don’t like. Also, experimenting with new genres at the office may be distracting. So, your commute could be a good time to try new music.

Music that is familiar and upbeat works well for menial tasks that require little brainpower. This music will keep you motivated, increases alertness, and can energize you.

If you are working on something that requires intense focus, you’re better off with relaxing music. Music that is lyrical and upbeat will distract your thought processes and make it more difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.

You should also avoid any music that triggers feelings of nostalgia. Because if you start on a trip down memory lane, then there is no telling where you will end up. Most assuredly though, you are not going to be very productive.

This last trait is why you may want to consider having designated “work” music. This is music that is generally only listened to while working or commuting to work. Your brain will associate the music with productive activities, and it should not stir up any distracting memories.

Music Recommendations

The wonderful thing about living in the digital age is that there are endless playlist options. If you already have a favorite playlist that is helping you get the job done, then you should stick to it. Otherwise, maybe it’s time for something new.

We’ve outlined some genres that are a bit off the beaten path and worth checking out if you’re looking for some recommendations. Odds are that you’re favorite streaming service has some playlists or radio stations focused on these genres, so don’t be afraid to do some searching.

Lo-Fi Beats

Lofi music is categorized by an aesthetic that gives a low quality or DIY vibe. These beats are generally downtempo and have a relaxing or dreamy vibe. This can include trip hop, lofi hip hop, lofi acoustic, chillhop, and jazzy beats.

Lofi Beats have seen a rise in popularity in recent years and ChilledCow’s popular youtube channel featuring beats to study or relax to has hit over 2 million likes. So there is plenty of instrumental music to explore in this genre, and if you are a fan of hip hop, this may be a great choice.

Indie Bluegrass

Bluegrass music has steadily declined in popularity over the years, however there are still plenty of talented independent artists making bluegrass music. Fans of country music may enjoy bluegrass, though it may also appeal to anyone who enjoys jazz, blues, or folk music.

Bluegrass music features string-based instrumentation (guitars, banjos, mandolins, etc…) and an offbeat complicated song structure. Because of this, it is appropriate for listening to while performing tedious work that requires little focus.

Post Rock

This type of music is instrumental and heavily driven by guitars. Post Rock tends to have a slower tempo and more of a soundscape vibe to it, so this is perfect for rock music fans who are looking for something to tune into while engaging in intense focus.


As one might imagine, jazztronica is a fusion of electronic music and jazz. This is often accomplished by combining live instruments with electronic beats and features hallmarks of jazz music such as swing, improvisation, and bent notes.

This style of music can be quite busy and distracting if you are trying to focus, so it’s best saved for simple tasks.

Nature Music

Music that incorporates natural sounds such as rain, the ocean, or a forest can provide a serene audio environment. Scientific studies have shown that music with natural sounds can enhance cognitive functions, optimize concentration, and increases overall job satisfaction. So this is perfect for focused tasks.

No Music at All

Sometimes it is best to not listen to music at all. If you are working on something that is incredibly focused and requires a lot of brain power, then you are probably better off not having anything play in the background.

Also, if you aren’t used to listening to music regularly, then you are likely to be distracted by it no matter what the genre is. So keep that in mind if you find that it isn’t improving your productivity.

Tuning In

Having the right headphones or speakers can make a big difference your musical enjoyment. Cheap hardware can be uncomfortable, unreliable, and sound outright terrible. This can mean you find yourself constantly adjusting headphones or tweaking knobs, which can be a huge distraction.

It is also important to consider your options when making a purchase because you’ll want to be sure that the gear is right for your situation.

For example, do you need sound isolation due to a noisy office? Are you able to play music over speakers without disturbing your officemates? These are some questions you may want to ask yourself.

Fortunately, there are a lot of options no matter your work situation.

Side note about headphones: I’d generally recommend going with Bluetooth or wireless so that you have greater mobility and are not constantly fighting against an annoying cable. So, we have done our best to find wireless options. With that said, there is nothing wrong with wired headphones if suitable for your workspace.

For the Noisy Office

If your office environment is fairly noisy, then noise cancelling headphones will provide you with some stress relief and help keep out distraction. Additionally, you won’t have to turn your music up as loud to drown out background noise, so you won’t run the risk of damaging your hearing.

Closed back headphones and earbuds are typically where you will find sound isolation options.

Closed Back

Bose QuietComfort 35

If you prefer something over your ears, then you might want to check out the Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones. They feature 20 hours of battery life, acoustic noise cancelling, and have google assistant built in.

Ear Buds


For something a little less obtrusive, Powerbeats by Dr. Dre are a great option. They have 15 hours of battery life, premium sound, and the cable makes it easy to drape around your neck if someone stops by for a chat.

Sony WFXB700

If discrete earbuds are more your style, try Sony’s WFXB700 Wireless Headphones. They have 9 hours of battery life, an ergonomic design for comfort, and are voice assistant compatible.

For the Collaborative Workspace

In some office layouts, it is important to be responsive when people are talking to you. This means that sound isolating headphones could create a potentially frustrating situation for your coworkers when they have to repeatedly raise their voices to get your attention.

If this describes your situation, you may benefit from “open back” or “open ear” headphones. This will allow you listen to your music while also having an open ear to the people around you. The drawbacks are that if the office is loud, you may have to crank the volume. This could damage your hearing and also make your music audible to people nearby.

There are claims that open back headphones provide a superior and more natural listening experience. So open back headphones are a great option even if you don’t need to collaborate with those around you and aren’t in need of sound isolation.

Unfortunately, there are limited wireless options for over the ear headphones. This is because the open design limits placement of the batteries and electronics. So you may be better off selecting a wired option if you want this style of headphone.

Open Back

Grado SR125e

For open back headphones, it’s hard to go wrong with the Grado SR125e Prestige Series. These headphones are hand built in Brooklyn and use a proprietary SpaceBlack Polycarbonate to absorb stray sonic vibrations. The result is a pure sound that provides a pleasurable listening experience.

Open Ear

AfterShokz Air

The AfterShokz Air use bone conduction to transmit sound through your cheekbones. This ensures that you are able to hear what’s going on with your surroundings. It should be stated that some common complaints with bone conduction is degraded audio quality. So, you should weigh this against the utility of the technology in your situation.

For the Office with a Door

If you are fortunate to enjoy some measure of privacy by way of an office with a door or have your own isolated workspace (perhaps a home office), you may want to listen to music on speakers instead of headphones. Options include computer speakers, Bluetooth speakers, or a standalone radio.

Computer Speakers

Bose Companion 20

If your company doesn’t have streaming services on lockdown, your best option may be to invest in some quality computer speakers such as the Bose Companion 20 speaker system. Bose is renowned for their audio quality, and these speakers feature an auxiliary port, a control pod, and Bose’s TrueSpace technology.

Bluetooth Speakers

Klipsch The One II

The One II is part of the Heritage Series by Klipsch, who has a longstanding reputation for tonal quality. The One II features bluetooth connectivity, concert quality sound, and a stylish appearance that will look impressive on your desk.

Desktop Radio

Yamaha TSX-B235

For an option that comes with an AM/FM tuner, CD player, and Bluetooth connectivity, take a look at the Yamaha TSX-B235. This radio looks great and has two USB ports for phone charging and music streaming. Additionally, this radio can be controlled with an app on your phone, so this makes for a great all in one solution that provides a lot of utility.

Final Thoughts

Developing familiarity with your playlist is important. This can happen during your commute or while performing tasks that don’t require full attention. But if you feel like the playlist is a distraction or even just flat out boring, then try something else. Eventually you’ll find a playlist or genre of music that works best for you.

From a gear standpoint, be sure to account for comfort and features. It’s worth spending a little extra for a quality no-fuss purchase.

If you have a favorite playlist or piece of hardware, please drop a comment below and let us know about it!

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