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Walk inside any gym; almost everyone is wearing headphones. Check out a spin class; the music is cranked up high. The same with Zumba. And joggers. Music is an integral part of the exercise and sports culture — so much that some people will turn around and go home if they forgot their headphones. For many, working out to music isn't a luxury — it's a necessity.
Music motivates. Music inspires. Music sparks creativity. Music energizes. Science says so: Research shows the components of music, from the lyrics to the tempo, can acutely affect performance by changing a person's mind-set or distracting from discomfort.
So why don't more companies not just allow but actually encourage their team to listen to music while they work?
Good question. A 2005 Psychology of Music study says listening to music while working results in better moods, improved efficiency, and better quality of work.
I like to listen to rap when I'm working. I think more creatively. I more easily uncover solutions to problems. Music inspires me to consider a massive challenge and to embrace the time, effort, and struggle required to achieve that challenge. (There's a big difference between consideration and actualization.)
In short, music excites me emotionally.
Granted, so do other things. I also watch TV shows for motivation, like the first episode of The Newsroom or any episode of The Defiant Ones. Certain TV shows inspire me to be more creative, to work harder, and to take on projects that might otherwise seem impossible.
The key is to expose yourself to things that charge your emotions and put you in the right head space to be more passionate and willing to dig in and get more done. And to expose your team to things that will do the same for them.
I knew music made a difference for me. And I constantly saw people in the tech space working with Beats headphones on, innovating and creating and even coding while they jammed out. So early on at LogoMix, I decided to harness the power of music to help inspire and motivate our team. We set up a Sonos system on one side of the office — the other side was the "quiet" side — that included a playlist feature any team could contribute to.
There were very few rules:
- Music had to be "work friendly." (Yes, it was that simple. "Work friendly" didn't need to be spelled out.)
- The volume had to stay reasonable. (Everyone instinctively understood what "reasonable" meant, too.)
- Music would only play when the sales team were not on calls.
What happened? Because people naturally have different tastes, the music changed based on who chose the song: From Beyonce, Jay-Z, NWA, to Kenny Chesney to Coldplay.
That's why it worked. Since everyone could participate, no one complained about being "forced" to listen to certain songs or genres. (Many enjoyed the chance to expand their musical horizons.)
Those on the quiet side of the office would sometimes move to the music side for a break. Those who typically stayed on the music side sometimes shifted to the quiet side if they felt a need for even greater focus. They had a choice, both in the type of music they listened to and whether they listened at all.
And that, really, is the point. We all have ways we work best. Some work best in relative solitude; others get energy from a group. Some work best in relative quiet; others get energy from noise and action.
And some work best to music. So give them that option.
They enjoy their work more, and they'll do more. They'll be more creative, more motivated, more eager to take on and conquer challenges.
Everyone has an inner source of motivation. Why not take advantage of external sources too? Like horsepower, too much motivation is never enough.
For you, and for your team.