I read an interesting article about music, “Music as medicine: Docs use tunes as treatment“, and I began thinking about what impact, if any, that music has on our work performance.  The article shares research that hospitals are compiling on how music affects patient recovery time following surgery.  They have found that certain types of music speed recovery time for patients.

According to the article, “Sound waves travel through the air into the ears and buzz the eardrums and bones in the middle ears. To decode the vibration, your brain transforms that mechanical energy into electrical energy, sending the signal to its cerebral cortex — a hub for thought, perception and memory. Within that control tower, the auditory cortex forwards the message on to brain centers that direct emotion, arousal, anxiety, pleasure and creativity. And there’s another stop upstairs: that electrical cue hits the hypothalamus which controls heart rate and respiration, plus your stomach and skin nerves, explaining why a melody may give you butterflies or goose bumps. Of course, all this communication happens far faster than a single drum beat.”

I’m wondering how this applies to our lives at work.  There are work environments that incorporate music and some that don’t.  Some have harsh, loud music (often found in retail stores like Hollister and Abercrombie) and others play soft Muzak (doctor’s offices, dentists, etc.)  Office work environments may allow employees to play music softly at their desk or in their office.

Effects On Daily Performance

The fact that certain types of music can stimulate areas of our brain that affect perception and memory is fascinating.  There are so many companies that struggle with ways to improve employee performance, yet not once in my career have I ever thought about how incorporating music into the work environment may positively impact employee performance.

Think of the possibilities.  If you have a design company where creativity is valued, playing music to stimulate that attribute could be very beneficial.  Perhaps in a professional services firm you would want to play music to relieve anxiety and send positive messages that improve memory and attention to detail.  The opportunity seems endless.

How many of you play music at work?  What kind and how do you think it affects your performance?

*reworked from the dusty archive…