A recent survey on mental health in the workplace, found that more than 3 people in 10 have experienced mental health problems at work. Employers can improve their employees’ health and well-being at work by offering support during both times of poor mental health and as a preventative measure. Addressing psychological needs can enable people to feel more motivated, supported, validated and productive at work. There are several areas that music therapy can improve on in the workplace…

Absenteeism, productivity and job satisfaction

Research has shown that health-related loss of productivity costs a company a great deal more than health insurance. Music therapy addresses factors associated with employee ill-health and therefore under-productivity. Additionally, employee absenteeism costs economies billions upon billions. Employers bear the cost of lost service and reduced efficiency when employees are absent. Research shows that increased job satisfaction and lowered absenteeism are positively impacted by wellness programs that include music. Increasing productivity and therefore returns on investment is evident in Johnson and Johnson’s Live for Life Program. They have reportedly saved $250 million in health care costs over a decade, with a return of $2.71 for every dollar spent!

Perceived organisational support 

Employees’ commitment to an organisation is powerfully influenced by how they perceive the commitment of the organisation toward them. If employees perceive to be supported and have their well-being highly regarded, they’ve been less likely to take time off work, and they also are more productive. Thus a nurturing relationship, where employers respect creativity through music therapy, will always positively affect business.

The role of workplace stress and mental health 

Apparently, 25% of women and 18% of men experience work-related stress, worldwide. This work-related stress is shown to be associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and a decrease in productivity and performance (Arena et al., 2013). Furthermore, anxiety and depression have been shown to be considerable contributing factors leading to lost productivity. Additionally, presenteeism – being on the job but not fully functioning – can cut productivity by a minimum of one third. Unlike absenteeism, it is not easily noticeable, and therefore hard to address. Thus, music therapy which has been proven to manage stress can improve the quality of work in a broader way than just targeting days taken off, but by improving the employee’s quality of life by allowing them responsibility for their own well-being.

Personal development, creativity and innovation 

In order to nurture the creativity necessary for innovating distinctive, leading-edge cars, Ferrari launched the Creativity Club. Employees at all levels were invited to engage in sessions where various professional artists would engage with employees in an attempt to demonstrate how they generate ideas and solutions. Painters, sculptors, dancers, conductors, jazz musicians and others were included in this endeavour. Sessions were intended to unconsciously cultivate deep personal and organisation creativity, and to make links between the two. Because of the complexities and fast-paced shifts that 21st century workers are faced with, being able to come up with new and different ways of thinking about situations is ever more valuable. Creativity is necessary for innovation, and innovation secures competitive advantages. It’s been found that the type of music listened to had an effect on creativity. High alertness and positive mood, propelled by ‘happy’ music,  boosted team and independent creativity. It’s no secret that actively participating in music or being receptive to it has the ability to improve one’s work performance.

Team building

The foundation of real teamwork is trust. An unwillingness to be vulnerable in the team can profoundly affect the team’s functioning. MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory (2012) demonstrates that the most predictive factor in a team’s success is the communication patterns of the members. Pharmaceutical company Nycomed holds regular large creative team building meetings. A significant factor for the team was the focus on communication and being present. Other important aspects were the level of variation afforded by the media, the personal significance, an awareness of self in relation to others in the team as well as how enjoyable the process was. 

Music, especially, is an agent for social cohesion. To cooperate successfully we have to coordinate our emotions and regulate how we engage with people given that we all have different intentions. Music can be powerfully uniting, as witnessed at the start of a sports match, during supporters’ rallying cries or national anthems. Music creates dynamic events that hold communities in emotional fellowship, giving members a sense of identification and meaning in a group, and allowing remembrance of valuable experiences shared. Music can be used to bring awareness to pressing issues, alleviate tensions, and create solidarity. The social functions engaged by music involve social contact, social cognition, co-pathy (the social function of empathy), communication, coordination, cooperation and social cohesion. Thus, music therapy in the corporate setting is definitely valuable.

To conclude, creativity is shown to be of great value in the modern workplace. It can offer experiences that allow new ways of engaging with and thinking about situations. Further, workplace stress and mental health can inadvertently be a major cost to a company. Active and receptive music therapy techniques may be utilised as stress management interventions. Music is also particularly well suited for eliciting emotional responses and used as a tool for expression that otherwise might be difficult.  Making music with others requires many of the same skills needed to be an integral part of the community: listening, paying attention, working together, and taking risks. Music therapy is a powerful and non-threatening tool that can break down barriers to communication, particularly when led by a skilled facilitator.