Should you listen to music as you work? Contrary to what your parents might have said when you were a teenager (Turn that music down! How can you possibly focus with all that racket?), music can actually help your productivity. That said, you need to be careful in choosing a playlist for work because the type of music you listen to matters.
Learn what music is best for productivity, how to choose music for working, and we’ll share a list of the best work playlists for working in an office or from home.
How to Choose a Playlist for Work
Yes, music can help you focus, but you’ve got to choose the right music for the task. While this will be a bit different for everyone depending on your personal tastes, humans have more in common than you might think when it comes to the tunes that help us concentrate.
Studies show that listening to music with lyrics helps when completing monotonous, repetitive tasks. These kinds of jobs bore our brains, and this lack of stimulation can be remedied by a song that tells some kind of story, letting us escape from the day-to-day drudgery of stocking shelves, employee onboarding, processing orders, etc. And the more upbeat and familiar the music is, the more motivated you will feel.
On the other hand, when we’re faced with a challenging task that demands all of our focus and concentration, it’s best to listen to music without lyrics. And it’s not just music with lyrics that will take our heads out of the game—humans are easily distracted by speech in general. Ask yourself, do you find it easy to focus on your work if your coworkers are having a loud conversation nearby? Is that why you’ve turned to your music in the first place?
Classical music, solo piano, jazz, or even your favorite movie soundtrack are all good choices, but once again, it’s important to pick something familiar, so you won’t become distracted. Ambient noise can also help you drown out distractions around you, such as waves crashing on a beach or trees swaying in the wind.
Good Work Music Dos and Don’ts
✅ Choose music to match the type of work you’re doing
✅ Pick familiar music if you need to concentrate
✅ Wear headphones if there are others working nearby
✅ If choosing music with lyrics, make sure they’re upbeat and motivating
❌ Don’t repeat the same songs over and over again in a workplace
❌ Avoid music with explicit lyrics in the workplace
❌ Don’t play music you know bothers your coworkers
❌ Elliot Smith, Joy Division, Bon Iver, Death Cab for Cutie, Lana Del Ray, etc. 😭
Where to Find Work Appropriate Music Playlists
Spotify is one of the most popular music streaming services out there, and it features over 50 million songs from over 12 million different artists. To make things easier, Spotify offers work appropriate curated playlists and radio stations, so you don’t have to worry about encountering any f-bombs.
The first pricing tier is absolutely free, but you’ll have to suffer through ads after every few songs. If that’s too much to endure, and considering what we’ve said about how distracting speech can be, Spotify Premium is available without ads for individuals at $9.99 a month.
Pandora is an American music streaming service with over 40 million songs that puts an emphasis on personalizing your listening experience by carefully analyzing the likes and dislikes you display while using the service.
Similar to Spotify, although Pandora was created long before Spotify, its first pricing tier is also free, but you’ll have to put up with ads. Pandora Plus is available for $4.99 a month, and Pandora Premium is $9.99 a month, and both options come with 60 days of free listening before you need to commit. Music for work can be found in curated playlists and on Pandora stations.
FMA - Free Music Archive
If ambient, independent music is more your thing, FMA has a vast selection of ambient musical selections in a number of different genres, from blues to experimental to old time/historic. And the best part? It’s completely free to use.
You don’t need to create an account or anything. Using your own data, you can download and listen to music to your heart’s content. FMA supports free to access, Creative Commons licensed music, and offers independent creators a variety of revenue opportunities.
Ambient-Mixer is another completely free, community-driven project. It offers a wide selection of unique soundscapes and audio atmospheres and, if you’re interested, the ability to make your own.
The ambient tracks range from realistic nature sounds to soundscapes out of popular Science Fiction and Fantasy series, such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and the Marvel films, to name a few.
Best Work Playlists on Spotify
Working Music (1300+ songs)
With over 87 hours of non-offensive pop music, this is a playlist that’s ideal for workplaces. Chock-full of pop-rock classics new and old, there’s something on this mixtape for everyone. When the office needs a pick-me-up, break up the monotony with these classic tunes.
Be sure to listen to it on shuffle to mix up the artists!
Work From Home Classics (101 songs)
Packed with just over a hundred songs, keep the mood mellow and focused for hours with the easy-listening sounds of solo piano, jazz guitar, and classical string and horn concertos—ideal for tackling complex tasks that require optimal focus.
Music for Work from Home (10 songs)
Full of easy-listening, nondescript jazz music, this short playlist is designed to keep the mood pleasant and your focus undisturbed. It’ll be just like sitting in a Starbucks, but with cheaper coffee.
Happy Jazz! (50 songs)
With hours of happy and swingin’ jazz classics from masters like Dexter Gordon and Art Pepper, choose this playlist to lighten the gloomy atmosphere brought on by challenging work assignments and rainy days—without losing your concentration.
Focus Flow (160 songs)
Keep your attitude smooth, groovy, and focused for hours with this selection of uptempo instrumental hip-hop beats. It’s a great playlist for riding a productive wave of inspiration or relaxing after a long day.
No Lyrics Pop Covers (79 songs)
Perfect for when you want to listen to your pop classics but really need to buckle down and focus. If you just aren’t someone who can stomach hours of classical music or nondescript jazz, this playlist has nearly five hours of songs you’ll recognize without being distracted… if you can keep the lyrics from popping into your head. 😬
Soundtrack For Studying (519 songs)
Are you a film buff? Because this playlist has 22 hours of lyric-less tracks from your favorite films. With epic soundtracks from Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and the MCU, this is a playlist designed to motivate you to go the extra mile. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE… this assignment by tomorrow. 😅
Mad Men Soundtrack Playlist (183 songs)
Feel like you’re working in a Manhattan office with this playlist taken from the classic AMC series. Channel your inner Don Draper and Peggy Olson with over ten hours of music that will transport you back to the 1960s. But, you know, without all the racism and sexism.
Best Albums to Listen to While Working
If you prefer to listen to full albums over curated playlists, check out our lists of albums for finding your focus and for completing monotonous tasks.
Albums for focused work:
- Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
- Piano Concerto No. 2 - Johannes Brahms
- The Goldberg Variations - Glenn Gould (playing Johann Sebastian Bach)
- Solo Monk - Thelonious Monk
- Inside Out Motion Picture Soundtrack - Michael Giacchino
- Studio Ghibli: Piano Station - Moisés Nieto
Albums for monotonous tasks:
- Miles Ahead - Miles Davis
- Upstairs at Eric’s - Yaz
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2 Soundtrack - Various Artists
- Where the Wild Things Are Motion Picture Soundtrack - Karen O, THE KIDS
- Mad Men: After Hours - Various Artists
- A Hard Day’s Night - The Beatles
Best Pandora Playlists for Work
Songs for the Work Day (80 songs)
This playlist is full of songs about working—about finding jobs, losing them, quitting them, and just straight up working hard for the money. Ideal for powering through monotonous tasks with one eye on the clock.
Work From Home (80 songs)
This playlist is designed to aid your concentration while you work from home. It offers gentle background music for time spent studying, reading, and tackling tasks that demand a lot of focus.
Acoustic Coffeehouse (42 songs)
This playlist is full of mellow tracks written and performed by a wide variety of singer/songwriter, indie, Americana, and folk artists. If you want some soft music to help you relax but still keep focused, look no further.
Nature Sounds to Study (49 songs)
Designed for those times when the music is distracting, but the silence is deafening, this playlist is full of nature sounds like crashing waves, babbling brooks, rumbling thunderstorms, and general white noise.
Best Pandora Stations for Work
This station’s lyric-free music is designed to optimize your focus when reading, writing, coding, or performing clerical work.
Study, Focus, Concentrate (Instrumental) Station
Tune into this station when you’ve got to focus but don’t want to do so in silence. The pleasant, mellow sounds will keep your body relaxed as your brain works extra hard.
STUDYING (Instrumental Focus) Station
This is another station featuring instrumental music that will keep you entertained but never distracted. Tune in when you need to drown out coworkers, family, or settle your own racing, non-work thoughts.
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