The benefits of using music at work are numerous but they are different for everyone. For the employer, music can help boost efficiency, expedite projects, and promote greater enthusiasm among employees. For the staff member, it can spark creativity or help push through a barrier in a project. However, some people may not feel more productive, creative, or inspired when listening to music – instead, they may feel distracted, stalled, or annoyed. This is the primary reason to invest time and resources to find the best music strategies for your workplace.
A consulting music therapist can get to the root of the needs of your organization, school or agency quickly and determine the best music for your unique setting. A music therapist will:
1. Assess your organization’s auditory diet
A music therapist will conduct an auditory environmental analysis comprised of team and management feedback; assessment of the auditory space (how music is being used already, and what sounds permeate the space); the feelings about music and sounds; the company’s view on the use of headphones; what quality of headphones are being used; and, perhaps most importantly, the team’s productivity goals.
The music therapist will then propose ideas and solutions with the ultimate aim to relieve auditory stressors, increase positive sounds and music that promote better feelings for creativity and performance, and increase team connections when music is used.
When we see something we don’t like we can close our eyes but our ears are much more difficult to cover. When I work with teams we discuss all the different sounds in the environment – the good, the bad and the unmentionables – and then highlight the ones that can be controlled and make suggestions for what can be added.
Like all diets it is not always about giving something up – LOSING something – a good diet includes ADDING in good stuff – music that will benefit our health and well-being.
2. Generate team connections and improve company culture
The music industry has proof that you should listen to music while you work. In a survey commissioned by the UK licensing organizations PPL and PRS for Music, 77 percent of surveyed businesses say playing music in the workplace increases staff morale and improves the atmosphere. The results seemed to be greater productivity.
However, a summary of recent research from Taiwan shows while some background music can increase worker satisfaction and productivity, music with lyrics could have significant negative effects on concentration and attention. The study concluded that music without lyrics is preferable, as lyrics are likely to reduce worker attention and performance.
A music therapist’s position is to develop a personalized plan that works best for each individual and group. Our connection to music is intensely personal. Over the past several years the role of music preferences has strongly been linked to three important psychological functions. When we respond positively to the music we are listening to we are more likely to improve our performance on certain tasks, our imagination is peaked, and our emotional state is altered.
Review your long list of potential music choices, including artists and genres, and work as a team to identify the benign music (“oh, that’s okay”). Setting guidelines of when music is played can be the most important part of the entire process, especially for those who work best in silence. There are many options but the most important part is that everyone agrees.
Here are some suggestions for when to use music:
- for the duration of everyone’s set lunch time e.g., 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., to add a social component to lunch
- the last hour of each day to pick up the mood and to signal the end of a successful day, thus promoting a boost in enthusiasm and a feeling of relaxation prior to going home
- to celebrate various occasions, e.g., for one hour of someone’s birthday, allow the birthday person or their co-workers to choose a playlist representing the birthday person
- throughout the day at a low volume, with increased volume during brainstorming sessions
- through individual headphones only, allowing people to choose the music that makes them feel most vibrant at work
- during a presentation or when you want to capture a specific mood or give a big launch to a new product or idea
3. Ignite your team’s creativity
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found employees with moderate sleep problems cost their companies about $2,500 in lost productivity a year. This study has also shown that listening to soft, slow (about 60 BPM) music like jazz or classical can improve the quality and duration of sleep, as well as improve functioning and creativity the next day.
Music is well known to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously (actually no other activity seems to do this better than music). Ronald A. Berk of Johns Hopkins University suggests music is effective in isolating the side of the brain you wish to develop. To improve the function of your left hemisphere, Berk recommends that you listen to unfamiliar, fast, up-tempo music in major keys. When we are working to stimulate and challenge the mind, new music that the brain needs to digest can be effective.
To work the right side of the brain (when you are reading, studying, reflecting or engaging in creative pursuits), Berk suggests you want the exact opposite – slow music in minor keys. This produces alpha waves that relax the brain, which can be useful to help your new experiences or learning pass into long-term memory.
Music therapists are sensitive to where people are at – how they are feeling and what their current needs are in the moment, with the goal of helping them reach their goals. This monthly blog series, ‘Maximize Your Music,’ will feature the many goals and dreams our clients present to us.