No-one knows me like the piano in the Harvey Milk room of the University of Birmingham’s Guild of Students. I sued to go there between classes and badly play Radiohead songs I learnt from YouTube. I’m not any kind of musical virtuoso, but after a long day of lectures, sitting down at a piano felt strangely natural. The embarrassing seminar contribution, the bad mock exam result – all of it would melt away while I was sat there.
18 months later, I’ve graduated and started working for Debut, and the WeWork we’re based in is *chef kiss* amazing. There isn’t much you could want for – there are self-service beer taps, free coffee and meeting rooms that turn into ping-pong arenas.
But after a tough day writing articles, I do still miss those ivory keys in the Harvey Milk room. And it led me to think about how so many of these large offices and co-working spaces pride themselves on having world-class facilities. They provide you with everything you need to do a solid day’s work, hell, even things you don’t need. So why do so many of them not have music rooms? It might seem a random appendage to the average workplace, but trust us, there are plenty of surprising, beneficial effects to workplace productivity.
It’s official, playing music gives you brain power
High powered execs should definitely take note of this. According to several studies, the benefits of music and instruments extend far beyond pleasure or learning new skills.
Ted-Ed’s Anita Collins notes that playing musical instruments serves as a challenging cognitive exercise, which activates your entire brain and strengthens connections between its various tissues
“Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices,” she says. “As with any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brain functions, allowing us to apply that strength to other activities.”
You’ve probably heard of certain activities being described as ‘left-brained’ or ‘right-brained’. This refers to the different hemispheres of the brain which are designed for specific tasks. For instance, maths and linguistics are handled by the right side of brain, while creative pursuits are co-ordinated by the left side.
According to Collins, music practice requires activity from both sides, effectively giving your brain a full-body workout.
Why is this a good thing? Because you’re increasing the volume of activity going between the different tissues of your brain, forcing it to fire off more messages along the nerves and create diverse routes to different synapses. This can increase your capacity to creatively solve problems, use logic and even improve your emotional intelligence. Last I checked, those were pretty good skills to have in a work setting.
Musical instruments also work wonders for your mental health
Of course, skills and brain functionality are not the only things that affect office productivity. Poor mental health can do that too. And in a world where identity is increasingly tied to your career, mental health at work becomes a more startling issue as time goes on. Luckily, research has identified music therapy as one of the ways we can wok to combat this.
Symptoms of mental health tend to get worse when you allow your mind to wander. That’s why things like meditation and yoga help with mild mental distress – they centre you and help you to focus. Same with music. Learning an instrument requires dexterity, hand-eye co-ordination and – yep, you guessed it – focus. And your focus on rhythmic or melodic patterns can often be relaxing and soothing.
According to research done by LiveScience, making music can also “lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, reduce stress, lessens anxiety and depression and may even help fight viruses”. I suddenly understand why I loved playing piano so much.
So what are you proposing?
Hear me out. The mental benefits of playing musical instruments are clear for all to see, and they beat playing table tennis by a long way. So on behalf of everyone at Debut, I’m proposing that all large offices with leisure facilities for staff dedicate a room for music therapy. Every kind of instrument you can imagine, available to everyone of all ability levels.
You don’t have to be Mozart or Kanye for this to work for you. Music is universal. Even if you think you have no talent, pick up a triangle and see if hitting it a few times doesn’t improve your mood. Then, get everyone in your company on it and watch your office productivity go through the roof.
Your move, WeWork.