Are there positive effects to music in mining?

Headphones laying on sheet music

Studies show certain kinds of music can actually help workplace productivity.

Working within an office has its perks. Regular cups of coffee, listening to my specially designed playlist as I work and — my favourite — being able to run out and grab some milk when somebody drinks it all without replacing the carton or telling anyone (again). 

Whilst I do enjoy working with colleagues an ears-length away in case of urgent queries, it’s certainly nice to be able to take a breather throughout the day as I complete autonomous tasks to the beats of my favourite artists! 

Living in Kalgoorlie for the past six years I’ve undoubtedly had my fair share of “intel” into the inner workings of various local mine sites. I’ve had friends who are Fitters laugh about Operators “tagging out” machinery because the radio was broken (meaning they couldn’t listen to music.) And, of course, friends who are Operators having iPods and radios taken off them because they had these devices too loud and couldn’t hear the two-way (this one seemed like a no-brainer to me). 

The common thread here is that the average site worker enjoys being able to listen to music as they work. So surely, I thought, there must be factual evidence to support allowing employees to listen to their melody of choice at work? Surely it increases staff productivity, or something? Here’s what I found out: 

  • Workplaces have to pay to let staff listen to music but if employees listen through a device (that is, through headphones) it is free even without paying any licences. Unfortunately, that just isn’t possible while operating a piece of heavy machinery.
  • Studies show that productivity levels improved in workers who chose to listen to music. However, if music was imposed upon them, then workers found it annoying and stressful. (That is to say, just as irksome as being forced to listen to hold music.)
  • Music with lyrics was found to be too distracting for workers who have a specific task to focus on, unless they were widely recognised songs or lyrics.
  • Classical genres of music or specially created ambient sounds were found to be the best option for workers to enjoy music within the workplace, while also having a positive effect on employee productivity.

Also, back in 1940, the BBC launched a radio program that ran throughout the day called Music While You Work. The findings concluded that background music resulted in fewer site accidents, improved alertness and created a higher level of positive team interactions. 

With all this in mind, there’s plenty of evidence to show that music helps ensure employee satisfaction and productivity levels remain high. Although it can be difficult to hear over the two-way at times, perhaps allowing workers the choice of listening to specific genres of music (like classical or instrumental music) could help to improve mood, performance and all-round satisfaction, without being detrimental to their attentiveness in the workplace?

Samantha McCarthy
Mining People International