How to Take Control of the Office Stereo Without Getting Sacked

Nail it, and you are a god. But get it wrong and you'll be treated like you did a shit in the photocopier.

by Angus Harrison
Nov 24 2016, 8:56pm

You're sat, bobbing gently, in the black saddle of a computer chair, squinting under endless beams of fluorescent light, pretending to do something with invoices or spreadsheets, or something. All around you are the lesser known characters in the cast of your life: your colleagues. The office is grey and deathly.

Suddenly, "Me So Horny" by 2 Live Crew starts blasting out way too loud. The younger employees giggle, but the older ones look infernal. "UH, SO HORNY! UH UH, SO HORNY!" Stares begin firing across the room. An email drops in; it's gone to the entire 150 person office – it says "What the fuck is this music? PLEASE CHANGE !!!" Replies start to flood in uncontrollably. "Agreed!", "Awful stuff!" then a fifty strong flurry of "Please take me off cc!" Followed by "Can everyone please stop replying all!?"

You look to your left and you see Carl from HR, staring down at his keyboard and whispering "fuck" under his breath. Poor Carl. He tried to play something on the office stereo, he forgot 2 Live Crew was on his "Thumpers" Spotify playlist, and he put it on shuffle didn't he? Carl, he absolutely fucked it.

Anyone who works in an office – especially an open plan office – knows that the stereo is a tempestuous beast. Nail it, and you are a god. A recent study by Deezer showed that the right music increases productivity in the work place. But get it wrong and you'll be treated like you did a shit in the photocopier. So how do you cope when the aux cord comes your way? What do you put on? Something cool? Something relaxed? Something classical? Or something #from #the #90s #for #all #those #90s #kids #out #there? Struggling? Panicking? Gasping for air? Clutching your heart with the hand that isn't holding the aux? Well fret no more. Here is our definitive guide to controlling the office stereo without being a Carl…


This is probably the most important piece of advice, so while it sounds obvious it deigns repeating. Look around you; do you see open plan meeting rooms, M&M dispensers and faux-decadent taxidermy? Excellent, your boss probably calls you 'buddy' and you are free to put on some music with loud guitar solos and swearing. That said, if you've just started working in the head office of Handelsbanken, maybe it's best to hold off dropping any Lil Yachty until you're completely sure how the woman with a framed photo of her pet tortoise on her desk gets her rocks off. Once you get good at this you can pretty much work out what the perfect music would be for any office. The Google offices are most definitely all Chance the Rapper and post-2013 Coldplay Songs, and GlaxoSmithKline is much more likely to be playing Simply Red. Whereas in Sports Direct they simply listen to the interminable screams of the hell they hath created.


On top of understanding your workplace, it is also crucial to recognise that the best music choice will change based on what time of day it is. 4PM on a Friday? That bloke with a goatee from marketing sipping an IPA at his desk? Then you're free to stick on anything from Cher to whichever Drake song everyone is currently pretending to enjoy. That said, 8:32AM on a Monday morning? Probably best to do everybody's hangovers a favour and leave Friendly Fires self-titled 2008 debut album to one side, and stick on something with the power to quietly dowse the turbulent flames of regret and solitude churning around in their gaseous stomachs.


This is really important. Working in an office is a repetitive existence as it is. From the same alarm tone each day to the familiar morning flavours of toothpaste and Shredded Wheat, the entire day is set up to feel like a slight variation on a very uneventful recurring dream. Routine becomes habit, habit becomes reflex, and before long your working life slips into a series of actions you barely have to tell yourself to do, all in an environment so uninspiring you'd have to spend every waking hour in it to notice it at all. "How," you sometimes ask, "can somewhere so bright, so light, feel so dark?" That feeling is only compounded when every Friday at 1700 hours the same dickhead puts on "You Can Call Me Al".


Scientifically New Order are pretty much the only band you can play that nobody is really going to complain about. They are interesting enough for the discerning members of your office – the ones who bring their own tea plungers into work – upbeat enough for the living-for-the-weekend crew, and nostalgic enough for that lovely old bloke you pass on the way to the toilets who always tells you about his motorbike.


Nothing worse than a twat in shiny trousers prancing round with a grin on his face because he's just discovered FKA Twigs.


This is an easy mistake to make, but it can prove catastrophic. Someone decides to put some trendy Radiohead remix on but doesn't realise the volume is set to "END OF THE WORLD". The first second blasts out, takes the skin off everyone's skulls, and leaves whoever put it on feeling like the 10 year-old who just farted at chess club.


This is a place of work! Not an episode of TV's The X Factor!


Personally, the only music I can actually constructively work to is ambient music, but it's important to recognise that the nature of the genre means it may not translate over the office speakers every time. Stick on some new-age instrumental and you put yourself at risk of earning a reputation as being in a constant state of coming down which – while maybe true – isn't necessarily something you want on your CV. In your headphones, it's a warm, orange cuddle – gently soundproofing your internal thoughts from the melee of the outside world. Played in a massive room, over the sound of tapping keyboards and coughing, it will probably sound like a broken extractor fan.


All those cautions aside, sometimes you have to trust yourself. So what if the vaping guy who sits on your desk has found out it's you and is sending your name to everyone on Slack? So what if people are shouting at you now, physically trying to wrestle control of the music away from you? So what if you're being respectfully asked to pack up your things and leave and actually you're still on probation so you don't have a leg to stand on? So what if the world turns it back on you? Sometimes you've got to believe in yourself, and believe in the power of music!


The Smiths are a bit of a drag IMO.

You can follow Angus on Twitter.

(Lead photo: Still taken from The Office UK, Photo 1: promotional shot from The Office UK, Photo 2: by Reynermedia via Flickr, Photo 3: still take from The Office USA, Photo 4: New Order packshot, Photo 5: internet meme, Photo 6: still taken from The Office UK, Photo 7: via Google 'Labeled for reuse with modification')