The nine-to-five cubicle office workplace is a relic, clinging onto society like a Brexit uncle who just won’t go away. The rise of creative companies, Silicon Valley influence, the coworking phenomenon … if an office space doesn’t share certain principles with an urban hangout, then the millennials are downing tools.
In opening out office spaces and flattening the company hierarchy, tearing down the physical and psychological barriers to workplace happiness and productivity has dominated global office culture throughout the 21st century. And that’s when there is an office. Studies show that upward of 85% of millennials prefer to work remote, from home or from any number of hip city centre spaces that dish out free craft beer, early morning yoga sessions or regular networking events.
Creating environments that are ecologically and socially conscious, upping the canteen game, encouraging travel and focussing upon experience over materiality. So much of life is spent working, that harnessing community spirit and redefining attitudes is a crucial factor in improving harmony, satisfaction, mental health. Gordon Gekkos are a footnote in history. The work/life balance is now a work/life blur. And both employers and those managing coworking spaces are forever searching new methods to heighten the worker experience. Which can be music to the ears of employees. Literally.
Whether you’re belting out My Heart Will Go On on the karaoke or doing Jagger lips in the shower, singing has been scientifically proven to make you happy. Levels of oxytocin are raised, endorphins are released, new neural pathways are forged and brain meta-plasticity is improved. Singing changes your brain, and it can result in higher states of pleasure and bliss. Doing it en masse, though, multiplies these effects. That’s right: schedule a meeting with your boss on Monday morning and demand they form a choir.
Music evolved as a tool of social living. Before governments ruled us, the song did. From tribes to nations, song and dance allowed us to build spirit and loyalty, it allowed us to relay information and served as a survival tool. Our brains are hardwired to enjoy music, to sing and come together as one, and workplace choirs are on the rise. Studies have when that 96% of people singing in groups feel less stressed by the demands of their job, 86% say that it can make them less socially isolated.
There are physical benefits, too. Singing at work might be more beneficial than that trendy morning yoga sesh. As well as improving mental health and combating depression or anxiety, its social bonding and brain-exercising can fight age-related problems; ward off strokes or speech abnormalities; improve posture, blood circulation and breathing. For employers searching for new, innovative ways to improve employee health, belting out a Neil Diamond number can have surprising results.
Naturally, singing at work can also break down barriers in much the same way the death knell of the cubical office did. It can help build bridges, connect you with new likeminded folk, studies have even shown that the heartbeats of a choir can synchronise. As well as helping to reduce your heart rate and improve your heart’s health, this physical coming together can increase empathy and understanding; it can improve listening skills and communication, confidence and compassion, creativity.
Empowering their members, a workplace choir has untold benefits, mental and physical. It is free, fun, and liberating. Be an employee or employer, freelancer or cowork space owner, encouraging others to engage in therapeutic singing is an interesting alternative to the current wave of mindfulness. Next time you sing the praises of a colleague, it might sound a whole lot different.