The Best Music for Working from Home

Among the many side effects of physical offices closing during the coronavirus crisis is the massive increase in people working from home.

As of this summer, a whopping 42 percent of everyone in the workforce is telecommuting full time. And both for those who have been working in a home office for a long time and those for whom this is a brand new experience, making your home office a place for productivity is a challenge.

With all the distractions — both physical and emotional — of working from your living room or home office, what better way to make your space your own than creating your own soundtrack to work to. But what’s the best music for working from home? Why is listening to music beneficial to your WFH life, and what genres best promote continued quality work?

person listening to music

The benefits of music while working

Why should you listen to music while working from home? Because music can help you be more productive, more creative or just happier. A silent room can be just as distracting as an over-stimulated environment. It can also drown out the sounds of your partner working in the other room, a cranky baby, a needy puppy, noisy neighbors or the sounds of the city.

Creates positive emotions

A happy worker is a productive worker. For many people, working from home is a new phenomenon and can cause worry about being distanced from co-workers and friends and falling into a poor mood which will affect the work.

It should be no surprise that the right music can make you happy. We all have that one song or one band that puts us in a good mood. And studies predictably confirm that happy employees are more productive and more efficient. In fact, more research shows that people who listen to music are happier than those who don’t. And who doesn’t want to be happy at work, even at home?

Brings the upbeat vibes

Music can also bounce out that 2:30 feeling, those times during the workday where you need a pick me up. In a normal world, that may have been a trip over to the office kitchen for a snack and/or gossip and a few moments away from your desk.

But when working from home, that midday lull can be alleviated with some upbeat tunes to kickstart yourself. Happy, uplifting music can also assuage the boredom of a particularly mundane or repetitive task and turn that project you were dreading into something much more appealing.

Drowns out distracting noises

The most practical use of music for working from home is lessening distractions. Back in the office, you were surrounded by people holding too-loud conversations, clacking away on keyboards or drowning you in the sounds of cold and flu season. Tossing on the earbuds took you away to a different place to concentrate on your tasks at hand.

At home, it’s the same thing, just different distractions. From barking dogs to kids in Zoom school to your neighbors running the vacuum way too often, a solid work-from-home playlist will keep you focused and on task.

Improves memory and cognition

It’s not just productivity that music heightens, but your memory and actual work performance. Sure, a great work-from-home playlist will get you excited and moving on that new project, but music can actually make your work better.

Recent studies have shown that listening to background music enhances episodic memory and improves your cognitive performance. Just imagine what the right background music can do to the quality of your work with better memory and optimizing your executive functions.

classical music

The best music for working from home

There are a lot of choices of music to listen to. Spotify alone defines nearly 2,500 different genres. But not every one of them is the perfect music for working from home for every person. You may be into melodic metalcore or Canadian indie or LGBT hip hop, but some genres promote productivity, creativity and concentration more than others.

Here are some of the best musical genres for working from home and keeping your day up and running between your morning coffee and your end of the day wrap up. And for each, we’ve provided some great work from home playlists to get you started.

1. Classical

Talk about staying power. Classical music dates back 500 years but remains popular today. Upwards of 35 percent of adults listen to classical, making it the fourth-most-popular genre — and the perfect background noise for your work from home. Classical music is many things at once: uplifting, moody, aural, familiar, mellow, inspiring — sometimes all within the confines of one piece or movement. And it’s a great WFH soundtrack.

The “Mozart Effect” theory says classical music makes you smarter, that it’s good for test-taking, studying and working, particularly creative work. Other studies have shown that classical music can boost your mood, increase productivity and even improve the quality of your work.

But classical music is a very broad genre spanning some 50 decades, so where to begin? One survey found that the Baroque period — think Bach, Vivaldi and Handel — fostered an increase in positive disposition and concentration.

Classical work-from-home playlists

rock concert

2. Epic and anthemic music

Soaring. Moving. Epic. Anthemic music is a style that crosses genres from the biggest arena rock bands and ’90s modern rockers to country storytellers and jock jams. It’s music that gets you on your feet, powerful celebratory songs with memorable choruses that project triumph.

It’s music that makes you feel like you can take on the world and accomplish anything. Even finishing that spreadsheet or submitting that HR project right on time.

Anthemic or epic music can inspire grandiosity and motivate you to get through that tough assignment or meet that goal. It’s sports anthems like “We Will Rock You” or “Takin’ Care of Business.” Soaring contemporary classical pieces like “Fanfare For The Common Man.” Inspiring heart-pumpers like “The Rising” or “Born This Way.” Or genre-defining hip-hop like “Fight The Power” and “It Was a Good Day.”

Like athletes getting off the bus, focused and Beats headphones on, anthemic music makes you feel uplifted, empowered and ready for game time. Is it music you should spend all day listening to while you work? Probably not. But if you’re feeling tired, beaten or simply unmotivated, high-powered anthems might just be the answer to sitting up straight and showing your boss who is boss.

Epic and anthemic work-from-home playlists

3. Ambient music

Ambient music may have a reputation as just elevator music or random soundscapes, but it’s so much more. It could be a colorful house or techno playlist. World music or indie shoegaze. Synths or space rock. But no matter what the subgenre, ambient music makes for a distraction-free backdrop to your workday.

The pioneer of ambient music and the iconic artist-producer Brian Eno, who created the ambient music masterwork “Music for Airports,” described the genre as, “able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular, as ignorable as it is interesting.” Music that won’t steal your attention yet fills the silence while you’re working may be the genre for you.

There are as many exciting artists as there are classifications of ambient music. Sample the spacey sounds of Enya and Enigma, electronica of Aphex Twin, old school prog Pink Floyd and Moody Blues, ambient pop of Talk Talk or Nick Cave, downtempo chillwave of Kygo or Toro y Moi or atmospheric dream pop of Dizzy and The XX.

Ambient work-from-home playlists

4. Feel-good music

Ever walked into a dentist’s office and the local hot adult contemporary station is playing over the intercom? Of course. Because feel-good music makes you… feel good. No one loves the dentist’s office, but maybe you’ll feel a little better if Hall & Oates or Britney Spears is playing. Songs that bring a smile to your face and make you move your feet a little (but not too much).

Pop music designed to make you feel happy even while you’re toiling away at work is perfect for working from home. It’s possible your old office even had this pumping through the hallways or in the kitchen. Because feel-good pop can make the day go by a little faster.

As you’re rushing towards deadlines or unburying yourself from an email avalanche – or even if the boss has just been on your tail all day — sometimes you need to do a little walking on sunshine to bring your motivation back. None of this is meant to be deep and thought-provoking. Feel good music is supposed to be like a snack break or a candy bar, to stimulate the happiness centers of your brain and release that hit of dopamine to get you onto the next task.

But take care to avoid songs with narrative lyrics or story songs, as music that tells a linear story has been shown to be distracting to cognitive work. So, blast the Pharrell or Barenaked Ladies, but stay away from the Don McLean, Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapin.

Feel-good work-from-home playlists

chill vibe music

5. Chill vibes music

Not every work situation calls for music that makes you move. Reading heavy text or concentrating on a difficult task might take something to ease the nerves and keep you relaxed. Some chill music — folk rock, smooth country or just good old classic acoustic rock — might be just what you need certain times during the day.

Acoustic or muted guitar, smooth vocals, light instrumentation and an uncomplicated beat is just the soundtrack for a stressful job or project. Cue up indie-folk jammers like Hozier, Dan Mangan, Phoebe Bridgers or Vance Joy, chill crooners including Ed Sheeran, Ingrid Michaelson or John Mayer, acoustic old-schoolers such as James Taylor, Cat Stevens or Rickie Lee Jones or just a great album of acoustic hits like Arkells’ “Campfire Chords” or something moody like “Folklore” from Taylor Swift.

But be wary of playlists heavy with your favorite songs. A study has shown listening to tracks with lyrics you know by heart, or “familiar vocal music,” can decrease your performance through distraction while you fight the urge to sing along, even in your head. Sounds like the perfect time to catch up on some new music you aren’t familiar with.

Chill vibes work-from-home playlists

6. Video game soundtracks

If you’re over a certain age, this category is going to make very little sense. But one of the best choices for music for working at home are video game songs. We’re not talking about 8-bit Atari beebop or Nintendo chiptunes. This is thematic, pointed and often soaring music specifically designed to enhance the video game experience.

Video game music is a marketing tool, designed to enhance your gaming experience. If you’re winding your way through a fantasy landscape or dodging enemy fire as you infiltrate enemy hordes, video game music can help you focus, keep your energy levels up or even just keep you playing. The same can be done with those soundtracks while you work alone in the living room.

These are compositions to encourage you to reach for that next level, whether it be in your first-person shooter, your epic fantasy adventure or your latest work project. It can help you avoid obstacles and collaborate with your friends, in the game or in the work huddle. This is the strategic music you’ll find in games like Bastion, SimCity, Thumper, Doom, Final Fantasy, Journey and Legend of Zelda.

Video game work-from-home playlists

7. Instrumental music

A study by two researchers at Middle Tennessee State University found students who listened to instrumental music scored higher on tests than those that listened to lyrical music. Logically, it makes sense. For some, a song with lyrics is akin to someone standing behind you talking while you’re working. In fact, an NIH paper showed that music needs to be lyric-free for it to promote productivity.

The great thing about instrumental music is it can literally be any music devoid of lyrics or words. Instrumentals exist in every single genre (well, maybe not a cappella or barbershop). No matter what music you enjoy, you can type away and crunch those numbers with soothing or inspiring music-only tracks bereft of those pesky words. Country, indie, classical, power ballads, skiffle, trip-hop — every genre has perfect instrumental music to fit your needs.

Instrumental work-from-home playlists

nature sounds

8. Nature and real-world sounds

Sometimes the soundtrack to your day doesn’t even have to be music. Filling your living room or home office with the sounds of nature can put you in a variety of moods, from motivated and amped to relaxed and attentive. The choices are endless and only limited by your tastes. Choose from classics like waterfalls, an afternoon thunderstorm, rustling leaves, a crashing surf, morning birds chirping or a crackling campfire.

The most useful noises don’t even have to be of the natural variety. Try something out of the box like rain hitting the roof of a car, an oscillating fan, a clacking train or a running washing machine. Are you really missing the office? Why not fill the silence with the actual background sounds of an office.

Is this still too disruptive? Help block out distractions with the neutral sounds of white noise. Just ask your smart speaker to play some.

Nature work-from-home playlists

Picking the right music for you

No one genre or music type is going to be exactly what you need every minute of the day. Take a cue from a music therapy concept called the Iso Principle. This technique calls for starting with music that mirrors your current mood and gradually ramping up to songs that match the mood you want to be in.

Start the morning with something slow that can ease you into your day without forcing you to be productive. Then, transition into some power jams that will increase your performance and get you pumped for finishing that big project or the day’s task.

Looking for a sweet spot to feed your day? One research report concluded that music clocking in at about 121 beats per minute was optimal for productivity. Think songs like “December” by Collective Soul, The Bangles’ “Manic Monday” or “My People” from Missy Elliott.

But no matter what genre you decide on, the only goal is to find what’s best for you. Studies show that while listening to music does aid in completing tasks quicker and improving cognitive thinking, how much it actually helps you concentrate depends on how much you actually like the music being played. So, find your jam, and get it done.

Published at Thu, 03 Sep 2020 13:00:05 +0000

5 Apartment Gadgets That Will Make Your Life Better

It’s your home of tomorrow…today!

You always fantasized about all the cool stuff you’d finally get to have when you moved into your new place. And now, that day is finally here. But in an era of robot vacuum cleaners and digital AI assistants, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of options when selecting your apartment gadgets.

Which ones would make your life easier? Which ones would just be fun to have? And how much can you reasonably expect to spend?

The best apartment gadgets for your home

Anyone setting a household budget for the first time will tell you the cost of something isn’t the same as the price. The price is how much you spend on it. The cost is where that money can’t go because you just spent it.

The good news is all of these items will save you time and money in the long run. There are budget-friendly options and more deluxe versions of each, so shop around and see what you like. After all, it’s your apartment. You get to make the decisions.

These are the five apartment gadgets we recommend for your home.

1. Digital thermostat

apartment gadgets Digital thermostat

These gadgets will automatically learn your daily routine and automatically adjust to your preferred temperature based on the time of day. They come in different options from different manufacturers. They can be programmed and adjusted from your phone. Turn off the air conditioner when you’re out of town and turn it back on when you’re on your way home from the airport.

They come in a range of different options and price points, but some electricity and utility companies will give these away to customers for free. And it’s easy to see why. A smart thermostat will not only help you get smarter about the electricity you use, but it’ll help you consume less. And if everyone uses less power, that’s less of a strain on the power grid, especially at a time when air conditions are running 24/7.

They’re super easy to install and connect to your Wi-Fi and cell phone. Just remember to save the old thermostat so you can reconnect it when you move out.

2. Smart appliances

Smart appliances

Smart plugs are the perfect way to make your home a smart home on the cheap. Plug your coffee maker into one and boom — instant smart appliance. Do you forget to unplug your curling iron when you’re getting ready in the morning? Turn it off from your phone. Connect one to your crockpot so you can program it while you’re at work. Coming home late and don’t want your beef stew to overcook? Turn it off and then back on again so you have a piping hot meal ready when you walk in the door.

These are also a great solution if you want programmable smart lights but you’re on a budget. Set any lamp to an automatic timer so you never have to walk into a dark apartment again. Set them to turn on at night while you’re out so your pets aren’t stumbling around in the dark.

3. Lights so smart, they can mimic the sun

apartment gadgets smart light bulbs

But if you’re looking for a full upgrade to your lighting in your apartment, smart bulbs are the way to go. They come in a variety of different styles, features, connectivity and sizes for any room, even the kitchen. Bulbs like these from IKEA are inexpensive options that can be linked up with more expensive hub options like these from Philips.

And, as fun as it is to turn your living room into a disco, the best feature of many of these bulbs is the ability to mimic sunlight. Look for bulbs that burn at 5,400 Kelvin or 6,500K. Those lights can produce light the same wavelength of natural sunlight in the morning or at noon, depending on the bulb. These can be especially useful during those long stretches of gray skies and cold weather during the winter months. Lights that can recreate sunlight are often recommended as a way of helping alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

Another benefit of investing in some smart lighting is that will make your Zoom calls look better. You could invest in one of those trendy ring lights everyone is using, or you can improve the quality of your video calls by screwing a $5 smart bulb into your desk lamp and setting it up right behind your computer. The result is an inexpensive, customizable and programmable solution that will make your video chat look studio-quality.

4. Virtual white noise

virtual white noise

OK, this one isn’t quite as smart as the other gadgets, but it’s still a lifesaver. White noise will help you get to sleep at night. It’s science. And the best part is that you can do this one for free! There are dozens of apps that recreate white noise, rainforest sounds, thunderstorms, anything you want. If you have a small box fan, you can leave that in your room. Or, if you’re serious about silence, you can invest in this model.

And white noise isn’t just helpful for sleeping. Do you have loud neighbors and thin walls? What about a roommate that’s up all night playing video games? Drown out the sounds of blasting armies of zombies with something more relaxing, like ocean waves or the rain.

5. Charging while chilling

apartment gadgets wireless charging

Odds are right now, you’re in arm’s reach of two or three devices that need to be plugged in or charged up. And at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, carrying all of the necessary cables and cords and adapters is a hassle. Simplify your charging time with a wireless charging pad.

Many newer model cell phones already have this feature, along with the Bluetooth earbuds you love so much. Just put your compatible phone on the induction charging pad and it’ll juice up. No cables required. Invest in a larger model like this, and charge your phone and earbuds at the same time.

You want to be able to power up your devices no matter where you are, but leaving cables sticking out of walls is an ugly and unsafe solution. Pads like these are sleeker and disappear into your décor when not in use.

Welcome to the future with smart apartment gadgets

There are hundreds of web-enabled smart apartment gadgets aimed at making our lives easier. So, shop around and see what’s out there. Not everything out there might be perfect for your new home, but you’re bound to find something.

If you know what you’re looking for, you’re bound to find something that can save you time, hassle and if you’re lucky, a little bit of money.

Published at Wed, 02 Sep 2020 13:00:24 +0000