THE guy in the next cubicle is yammering away on the phone. Across the room, someone begins cursing loudly at a jammed copy machine.
The headphones on the other end of your desk suddenly look very appealing. Would anyone mind if you tapped into your iTunes playlist for a while?
Some workers like to listen to music when they find themselves losing focus. They may also plug in their earbuds to escape an environment that’s too noisy — or too quiet — or to make a repetitive job feel more lively.
In biological terms, melodious sounds help encourage the release of dopamine in the reward area of the brain, as would eating a delicacy, looking at something appealing or smelling a pleasant aroma, said Dr. Amit Sood, a physician of integrative medicine with the Mayo Clinic.
梅约诊所(Mayo Clinic)的整合医学医师阿米特·苏德(Amit Sood)博士说，从生物学角度来讲，优美的旋律有助于刺激大脑奖赏区释放多巴胺，同样的反应也可以发生在享用美味佳肴、观赏美好事物、或闻到怡人香味的时候。
People’s minds tend to wander, “and we know that a wandering mind is unhappy,” Dr. Sood said. “Most of that time, we are focusing on the imperfections of life.” Music can bring us back to the present moment.
“It breaks you out of just thinking one way,” said Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami.
“它让你突破单一的思维方式，”迈阿密大学(University of Miami)音乐治疗项目的助理教授特里萨·莱西乌克(Teresa Lesiuk)说道。
Dr. Lesiuk’s research focuses on how music affects workplace performance. In one study involving information technology specialists, she found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn’t, because the music improved their mood.
“When you’re stressed, you might make a decision more hastily; you have a very narrow focus of attention,” she said. “When you’re in a positive mood, you’re able to take in more options.”
Dr. Lesiuk found that personal choice in music was very important. She allowed participants in her study to select whatever music they liked and to listen as long as they wanted. Those who were moderately skilled at their jobs benefited the most, while experts saw little or no effect. And some novices regarded the music as distracting.
Dr. Lesiuk has also found that the older people are, the less time they spend listening to music at work.
Few companies have policies about music listening, said Paul Flaharty, a regional vice president at Robert Half Technology, the staffing agency. But it is still a good idea to check with your manager, even if you see others wearing headphones in the office.
人才中介公司Robert Half Technology的区域副总裁保罗·弗拉哈迪(Paul Flaharty)说，很少有公司出台有关听音乐的政策规定。但即使你看到办公室里别的员工戴着耳机，也还是最好先询问公司经理。
He said some supervisors might think that workers wearing headphones weren’t fully engaged and were blocking out important interactions “because they are going into their own world.”
“If someone’s not doing a good job,” he said, “then you can have a hiring manager say that all they do is listen to music all day and that it’s hampering productivity.”
For those who choose to listen to music, it’s best to set limits, because wearing headphones for an entire shift can be perceived as rude by those nearby.
Dr. Sood, at the Mayo Clinic, said it takes just 15 minutes to a half-hour of listening time to regain concentration. Music without lyrics usually works best, he said.
Daniel Rubin, a columnist at The Philadelphia Inquirer, said he has listened to jazz and piano concertos for most of his 33-year newspaper career — but only when writing on deadline. He started off using a Sony Walkman, but now makes use of 76 days’ worth of music on his iTunes playlist.
《费城询问报》(The Philadelphia Inquirer)的专栏作家丹尼尔·鲁宾(Daniel Rubin)说，他在自己33年的报纸工作生涯中，一直习惯听爵士乐和钢琴协奏曲，但只是在截稿期前赶稿的时候。他最初用的是索尼随身听(Sony Walkman)，但现在他的iTunes播放列表上的音乐可以听上76天。
“The person clicking their nails three desks away and the person humming next to me all sound equally loud and it’s hard for me to block them out,” he said.
As a columnist, he works mostly alone, and people in the office seldom need to approach him. But when he was a budding reporter, he noticed that colleagues would become irritated when trying to get his attention. “It was really annoying because suddenly you would hear ‘Dan ... DAN ... DAN RUBIN! People were screaming at you because they needed you.”
ANDREW ENDERS, 28, a lawyer and insurance broker in Linglestown, Pa., said he and an officemate bonded over a local radio station when they worked at the Dauphin County District Attorney’s office. They switched off the radio only when speaking with a client, and they lowered the volume when their boss was around.
“I do these very serious things, reviewing insurance policies and evaluating risk and liability exposure,” Mr. Enders said. “A big part of my personality is the artistic side, and music helps me balance who I am as an individual with what I’m doing at work.”