Benefits Strategy

Employee Wellness

Does Music Belong in Your Workforce Mental Health Strategy?

Science suggests music can be an effective tool to help employees focus and feel better. January is a great time to test it out.

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The Calm Team

3 min read

The January Blues are back. The post-holiday let down, the return to the grind, and gloomy weather in much of the country could combine to make record high levels of employee sadness, stress, and exhaustion even worse. What can you do to support your teams that you haven’t tried already? Encourage workers (as appropriate) to put on their headphones and test out some tunes. 

Music can get a bad rap in the workplace—it can be distracting, disruptive, or even offensive. For these reasons, some workplaces elect to ban music and music devices altogether.

But don’t overlook the potential benefits music can bring. Not only can music boost moods, in some cases, it can make work easier. Studies suggest that music can improve focus, boost cognitive performance, and enhance creativity, which could also help workers feel less stressed and anxious. So, if music isn’t part of your workforce mental health strategy, consider adding it to your toolbox.

Of course, the genre of music is relevant; hip hop might not be a great choice for focusing. To help you and your employees get on the right track, here’s some of the science about music and worker well-being.

Binaural beats can improve efficiency and accuracy in work

When a person hears tones with two different frequencies, one in each ear, the brain creates a third tone that represents the gap between them. This third tone is called a binaural beat. Research shows that people complete work faster and with fewer errors when listening to music with binaural beats.

Employees can test it out for themselves on Calm. Adrift is a 75-minute music program based on binaural beats by Calm Music and songwriter, vocalist, producer and DJ Bklava (Ministry of Sound). 

Preliminary studies also have shown that binaural beats lengthen the duration of deep sleep (stage three sleep), improve the quality of sleep, and make waking up easier, according to the Sleep Foundation. 

Lo-fi music can help increase focus, reduce stress, and improve sleep

“Lo-fi” (low-fidelity) music is a genre of music characterized by unpolished sound production that gives it a nostalgic feel. Lo-fi is raw and embraces imperfections, such as static or ambient noise. Its slow pace and mellow, instrumental nature can turn a stimulating environment into a relaxing one conducive to focus and productivity. Here’s how:

Employees can test out a selection of lo-fi music from our playlist on Calm, including Memories, Cloudy, Feel This Way Again, and Infinite Lo-Fi for Focus.

Listening to music can boost creativity

Do your employees need to be creative to excel in their roles? Creativity combines two distinct types of thinking: generating new ideas (“divergent thinking”) and determining which ideas can be successful/problem solving (“convergent thinking”). 

Research has shown that listening to music that elicits positive emotions (i.e., “happy music”) boosts creativity when performing a divergent creativity task.

The “Motion” track on Calm uses different music beats and frequencies to bring listeners through the different stages of the creative process, from task assessment to divergent thinking, to convergent thinking.  

Adding music to your workforce mental health toolbox

Despite a strong commitment by employers to improve employee well-being, most workers are not feeling any better. Nearly 70% of employees are feeling the same or worse than last year, according to research from Deloitte. Righting the ship will require making fundamental changes to workplace culture, including elevating employee well-being to be a strategic priority. 

At the same time, organizations should ensure they’re offering a full spectrum of well-being solutions, including preventive tools that their entire workforce can access and use. Amid the January Blues, encourage employees to test out some music to help them reduce stress, regain focus, get better sleep, and improve productivity. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

For more information about supporting employee well-being, focus and productivity, connect with a Calm specialist today.

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