The Best Podcasts to Listen to at Work

Podcasts to Listen to at Work
Annie Spratt

Work. It’s not always fun, but we’ve all gotta do it. Thankfully, armed with a phone or your laptop and some trusty headphones, you don’t have to spend your 9-to-5 in solemn silence or listening to Derrick three cubicles down ramble on about his latest medical appointment. Instead, you can fill your ears with the wonder of podcasts and spend the workday a world away. Here are some of our favorite podcasts to listen to at work.

FreshAir

FreshAir

If you’re someone who loves to plumb the minds of the creative and successful, FreshAir is just the podcast cure for that Monday morning meeting that definitely could have been an email. Pop in your earbuds and let host and interviewer extraordinaire Terry Gross lead you on a deep one-on-one with what the show dubs “today’s biggest luminaries.” Episodes run about 50 minutes each, and guests and topics are varied enough to suit practically anyone’s curiosity. Past guests have included everyone from actors and filmmakers to environmental activists and former FBI directors; topics have covered everything from American Imperialism to Broadway musicals.

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Note to Self

Note to Self

There’s no way around it. Technology is woven into practically every waking moment of our lives. Think about it: When was the last time you left home without a computer in your pocket? Heck, you’re probably reading this on your phone right now. In a world where we’re surrounded by tech 24/7, it’s only natural we start talking about what that means, isn’t it? That’s the idea behind WNYC’s Note to Self, in which host Manoush Zomorodi asks the question: How is all this technology really affecting our lives? The show is endlessly and irresistibly fascinating (even when it veers into unsettling territory) as it sheds new light on our most beloved devices. Past mind-bending topics have included whether Amazon’s Alexa is bent on world domination, what the definition of reality is in the modern world, and one especially terrifying episode in which a former Amazon chief scientist proves just how much personal information can be garnered from a single photo you post online. Neat!

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Invisibilia

Invisibilia

Invisibilia is a podcast so unique in its scope that its difficult to describe – but we’ll give it our best shot, because dang, is it worth it. To put it simply (sorta), Invisibilia is a podcast all about the unseen forces that shape us as human beings, from the way we think to the way we communicate to our personal belief systems. The show takes NPR’s classic narrative style and merges it with interviews, experiments, music, and more to build each episode into a beautifully immersive exercise in human connection and discovery. With past topics like the science of emotions, how and why we envision our future selves, how we grapple with self-discovery, and whether we can truly “fake it ‘til we make it,” this podcast won’t just make your workday fly by, it will probably blow your mind a few times, too.

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TED Radio Hour

TED Radio Hour

We’re sure we’re not the first to tell you about the wonders of the TED Talk, but did you know that you can enjoy that inspirational TED flavor in podcast form? The TED Radio Hour follows in the tradition of the organization’s famous Talks as host Guy Raz sits down with TED talkers for “a journey through fascinating ideas.” Each episode is centered around a common theme, with multiple guests chiming in to give their own perspectives. The result is a lovely blend of interview, panel discussion, podcast, and presentation that goes beyond the TED Talk while retaining its signature inspirational flavor. Past topics have covered everything from health to decision-making to art to money.

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How I Built This

How I Built This

Prefer to spend your workdays dreaming about the day you’ll be your own boss? If that’s the case, you need to get on the How I Built This train, fast. The podcast offers listeners a peek inside the lives and minds of successful innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists to learn how they achieved success and built some of the world’s most influential companies and movements. If you’re looking for that extra dose of inspiration to finally launch your dream project, you’ll find it here. Past companies and projects profiled have included Five Guys, Whole Foods, Kickstarter, and Power Rangers, to name a few.

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Tiny Desk Concerts

Tiny Desk Concerts

Sweet, soothing music has been a popular choice for people looking to drown out their coworkers since the first set of headphones slipped over a pair of ears. Now you can have the best of both worlds with Tiny Desk Concerts, a podcast that delivers the sound of your favorite musicians performing live concerts…from a tiny desk at NPR HQ. The show consists of just concerts; although the concerts take place at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen, there is no interview component to the show. So why not just listen to music, then? Well, what makes this format utterly unique is the sheer intimacy of it. With the audio consisting of nothing more than the performer’s music and between-song-banter, it feels like the second (or third?) coming of MTV Unplugged, except you and the artist are the only ones in the studio. The show releases episodes in both audio and video format, so you can continue the experience once you’re back home, too.

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Plumbing the Death Star

Plumbing the Death Star

There’s nothing like a spirited debate to get your energy up and make the 9-to-5 grind more interesting. You could spark up a convo about the horrifying state of American politics, international affairs, or humanitarian issues … or you could get straight to the topics truly weighing on everyone’s mind, like “is Batman really a hero?,” “Why don’t the Weasleys just magic up some cash?,” “Wait, is the Imperial Army super racist?,” and “Why the F would God even create Bruce Almighty?!” If the topics weren’t enough to reel you in, the show’s hosts Joel Duscher, Jackson Baly, and Joel Zammit — who describe themselves as “three rude boys [who] ruin pop culture through dumb questions” — add an extra dose of charm with their unabashed geekdom and passion. If you’re a nerd at heart, you’re guaranteed to be delighted at how invested you become in Plumbing the Death Star’s utterly pointless debates.

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If you burn through all of these, you should check out our favorite podcasts for road trips, our top overall picks for 2019, the best fiction podcasts overall, podcasts to listen to during a workout, the greatest history podcasts, or The Manual’s own podcast. And if you’re new to podcasts, you’ll need one of the top apps for listening.

Article originally published March 1, 2019. Last updated to make sure podcasts were still current.

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