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Music Therapy at Work

Make Music Work…at Work

Music Therapy at WorkFinding music that works in your work environment, like all good work procedures and strategies, takes time, and starts with being proactive instead of re-active.   Here are my top 4 considerations when choosing and using music at work:

1. Discuss the BENEFITS of playing music with your specific group

The benefits of playing music at work are numerous but they are different for everyone. For the employer, it may be boosting efficiency, expediting projects, and working with greater enthusiasm. For the staff member, it may be sparking creativity or help for working through a barrier in a project. For others it may be feeling better connected to others. Keep in mind that not everyone feels more productive, creative, or inspired when listening to music. Instead, they may feel distracted, stalled, or annoyed. This is the primary reason why it is important to start with honest discussion that includes all team members.

2. Organize a forum where everyone can discuss their list of PREFERENCES

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Preferences are important in assessing major triggers. I learned from one staff member that her boyfriend swears by heavy metal when he’s racing to meet a deadline. On the other hand, she needs to crank out the show tunes when she wants to lose herself in her work. Clearly, everyone has different preferences when listening to music at work. When you meet with your group of two or more, start by making a list of all the music that everyone feels would suit the environment of their shared space. This request moves music from the realm of personal preferences to that of the larger group experience. For the employer or manager, this exercise can reveal the staff’s perception of company culture and working environment.

3. Identify a COMPILATION of benign music

In my experience there are certain music selections that tend to fall in the range of “benign music,” music that invokes the response of, “Oh that’s an okay song” rather than “Oh I can’t stand that song.” Playing through the entire album of Supertramp may not be for everyone.  Review your long list of music, including artists and genres, and work as a team to identify the ” oh-that’s-okay music”

3. Set guidelines around WHEN the music will be played

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 of when but the most important part is that everyone agrees to the use of music in your environment.
Here are some suggestions for when:

  • for the duration of everyone’s set lunch time i.e. 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to add a social component to the 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. For example, for one hour on the day of someone’s birthday, allow the birthday person or the co-workers to choose the set list representing the birthday person.
  • Play music throughout the day at a low volume with an increase in volume during brain-storming sessions
  • Use silence throughout the day and allow individuals to use their own headsets for the music that makes them feel most vibrant at work

Fortunately for me, I do all my administrative work from a private office so I don’t have to worry about disturbing cubicle mates when I want to sing along to the cast of Glee. The most important part about music with others is to respect one another’s choices and music needs. Sometimes our auditory triggers are fast and furious. Be kind to others so they don’t feel they need to ‘sound off.


Jennifer Buchanan, BMT, MTA is the happy owner of JB Music Therapy and Author of TUNE IN: Use Music Intentionally to Curb Stress, Boost Morale and Restore Health. Our “Music Speaks” Blog aims to inspire you to use music with greater intention and knowledge and to hire us as required or purchase our products.