How To Effectively Bring Music into the Workplace

Music

Is your workplace culture music to your employees’ ears? With a mass employee exodus shaking up the labor market across the country earlier this year, and workers’ demands evolving as a result, it is time to get a finger on the pulse of how to cultivate positive workplace cultures.  

While employers used to focus on in-office benefits like casual Fridays, complimentary break room coffee and fully stocked refrigerators, the new generation of employees is seeking work environments that promote overall well-being, social connections and collaboration.

As employers and HR professionals grapple with how to meet the demands of today’s workforce, one solution rising to the top of the charts is music. While listening to music in the workplace might not be a new concept, the method in which those tunes are incorporated to spark collaboration, productivity and employee satisfaction is, in fact, at the forefront of innovation.

There are numerous benefits of incorporating music into the workplace, but there are also challenges when you don’t execute introducing music strategically. After all, you would not blast opera music for a team of 100 employees and expect everyone to be pleased. Understanding the benefits and the challenges is key to effectively implementing this company benefit.

The Benefits of Music in the Workplace

Music has long been an integral part of the workplace. Since the 1800s, specific tunes have been whistled, hummed and played by laborers, from factory workers to retailers. “Whistle While You Work” may have been a popular song in a fairytale, but it certainly portrays the involvement of music in early society and how collaborative beats can bring joy to even the most strenuous tasks. Spanning all cultures and societies, music has the power to cross boundaries and unite workers of all backgrounds. Whether you are struggling to boost productivity or you want to bring your team together, here are a few benefits of inviting music into your office:

  • Productivity and creativity get a boost. Workplace productivity is dipping across the country, with only 21% of employees engaged at work, according to a 2022 Gallup report. Of course, engagement impacts outcomes and productivity, leaving employers with open positions to fill and less-than-ideal performance metrics. By strategically introducing music into the workplace environment, creativity and productivity get a much-needed boost. Now, creativity is not only for artists and poets; coming up with original ideas is in fact creativity, and one study shows a correlation between listening to happy music and divergent thinking, which results in cultivating more innovative ideas.
  • Employees are less likely to feel stressed. Workplace burnout and stress hit a high during the pandemic. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey, 79% of employees experienced work-related stress in the month before taking the survey. Music is a simple yet powerful solution to ease employee anxiety, and it has been a proven method for years. For instance, a British radio variety program, Workers’ Playtime, was transmitted between 1941 and 1964, originally conceived as a morale-booster for industrial workers during World War II. Even through hardship, music is a uniting force.
  • Workplace collaboration is sparked. Whether its singing “Happy Birthday” at a party, belting out sports anthems in a stadium, laughing over karaoke or uniting in a church choir, it is no secret that music brings people together in a way like no other. In today’s workplace, new technological tools are consistently implemented to support collaboration, and interactive musical playlists have the ability to foster inclusivity and elevate diversity in a team of various cultural backgrounds. By sharing songs from artists of different genders, backgrounds, cultures, generations and genres, employees are united together through a joyous experience.

The Challenges of Music in the Workplace

While music has the potential to bond employees, there are challenges to overcome when sharing it in a group setting. In other words, it must be implemented thoughtfully and hit just the right notes. Just as a certain song can immediately lift one’s spirit and bring a drab day to a productive one, employers must beware that the more traditional ways of blasting beats in the office might not suit the current workforce. Here are a few obstacles to overcome when hitting play on music at work:

  • Headphones can further isolate. Imagine walking into a silent office where every employee is tucked into cubicles, wearing headphones for eight hours. The IT director is listening to instrumental tunes while the marketing director is playing country songs. No interaction, no laughter, no discussion over the latest hits—only silence. To further exemplify this isolation, a study by AVSForum.com revealed that two-thirds of people at work see wearing headphones as a sign of being busy and wanting to be left alone. A powerful uniter such as music can easily become isolating when not shared at the workplace in an advanced, strategic way.
  • Lack of employee choice. One important challenge of music in the workplace is ensuring that employees have a say in what songs are played throughout their workday. Boosting workplace culture does not only stem from leadership, but it should be an open discussion where all employees are empowered to contribute. When one person decides on the office playlist, workers may feel as if their tastes and opinions are ignored. Not to mention, if one employee is not a big jazz fan … well, you get the point. A vibrant, diverse workplace means team members are welcome to contribute to and collaborate on song choices. You never know, employees might just learn something, as music tends to educate through its historical and cultural undertones.
  • Repetitive tunes can feel mundane. There is no better way to kill the work mood than by playing the same song on a loop all day. Listening to the same music every workday may contribute to boredom in the office, and with one recent report finding around half of employees reporting they feel bored at work, this is no time to contribute to the problem with mundane, repetitive noise. Not only does boredom break down workplace cultures, but studies cite boredom among the main reasons for employees wanting to leave their current job. Employees should have a choice in selecting the music that’s played for better diversity and to suit work needs.

For centuries, music has been an integral part of the workforce, sparking joy and morale through even the most stressful of times. As today’s organizations consider the great benefits of office tunes, it is crucial to note that with the numerous benefits comes challenges.

Shared workplace music boosts productivity and creativity, reduces stress and ignites a collaborative environment, but employers must be careful of isolation through personal music streaming and headphones, the inability for team members to collaboratively make song selections and repetitive tunes that contribute to boredom. Allow collaborative and interactive music to reverberate through your workplace and start each day on a high note.

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