Employees building camaraderie through a musical program

Say it with me now; or sing it out if you are already on my wavelength! “Music is the key to building camaraderie in the workplace.” Take a moment to let this statement land. Are you feeling uncomfortable or confused? 

Are you having flashbacks to traumatic memories of forgetting lyrics in middle school choir?  Don’t worry, we’re not talking about that time you bombed on “Don’t Stop Believing” at the 2015 retreat karaoke event. We are talking about the scientifically backed methodology of using music as a tool to build genuine human connection.

Music is more effective than you might have ever considered as a relationship building tool. It’s also relatively easy to include into your upcoming retreat or event.

Understandably, at this point you might be thinking something along the lines of: what the heck are you talking about? I’m a scientist or lawyer or financial advisor. How could music be the key to building connections between my team members? 

Why Does Camaraderie At Work Matter?

First let’s dive into why you should be concerned about the camaraderie of your team in the first place. Why should you care if your employees have genuine friendships or not? Isn’t that just icing on the cake, a sort of “nice but not really necessary” type of concept? Well no. Office friendhips is a main ingredient in the recipe for the success of your corporate culture. 

The Oxford dictionary defines the word “camaraderie” as “mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.” Workplaces with a sense of friendship between team members generally boast more engaged employees who are happier to come to work. They demonstrate much higher rates of employee retention. 

When a sense of trust, respect and friendship is present, employees experience psychological safety that allows them to contribute important new ideas without fear. An engaged team that is strongly bonded with one another will have a much higher quality of work than a team that is disengaged and disconnected. 

In fact, research has shown that having friends at work markedly increases productivity, engagement, and employee retention. In the world of sports, teams with high levels of camaraderie are statistically more likely to win games. The experience of genuine friendship and connection throughout life has even been shown to help people live longer. Yes, you read that correctly. This can actually make you live longer. Move over Vitamin C.

Hmmmm, so research is saying that we can live longer, win more, and have real fun at work…Sign me up please!

Music As A Force For Connection

Though music might seem like something that doesn’t belong in a corporate boardroom or annual pharmaceutical research conference, I’m here to tell you that it absolutely does. As a lifelong creative junky and full time songwriter, I might seem a little biased. But personal feelings aside, music is a foundational element of human connection going back tens of thousands of years. It plays a key role in creating the types of strong, meaningful social bonds that we are after.

Consider the hunter gatherer societies of 35,000 years ago. In 2009, archeologists dug up the artifacts of such a society and found not only weapons for hunting, but a flute carved out of bone. Why take time away from tasks of immediate survival to make music? It seems kind of strange that someone whose day-to-day reality was so completely focused on tasks of basic survival would take time to play the flute. 

Why would evolution even have allowed for something so recreational to exist under constant threat of starvation, neighboring tribes of humans, and death by wild animal?

The answer is simple. We as human beings are biologically hardwired for connection. Our brains send signals of safety to our stress response system when we are in a group setting that invoke a sense of belonging.

When we feel lonely or isolated, the brain sends the signal to our stress response system that we are in danger. Cortisol and adrenaline go skyrocketing up, and we fight, flight, or freeze.

Whether you are a marketing exec, a CEO, or high-powered attorney, you can’t dodge your evolutionary neurobiology. We’re all hardwired to find reward in making deeper connections. Finding ways to build relationships in the office should’t be optional. 

Music pings the same parts of the brain that are involved in the important building blocks of human connection. These are trust, empathy, and a sense of belonging. When we make music, these important “connection” parts of the brain light up like a Christmas tree. Music is a magic bullet that helps us get straight to the part of ourselves involved in emotional connection and meaningful human bonding. 

Incorporate Music Into An Office Event

Hopefully, I’ve sold you on the connective abilities of music and we can agree that building camaraderie is vital. So, if you’d like to start building some of that human connection at your next retreat or team meeting, here are some easy ways to get rocking and rolling with your team.

1) Create a playlist for your event

This might sound a little too simple to be effective, but trust me, it’s not! Imagine walking into a board room and waiting for a meeting to start. What do you hear? Pens clicking, people typing, someone sneezing, thumbs flying across the screen of iPhones with the requisite aggressive thumb tapping noises. Notice what’s happening in your body as you imagine this office soundtrack. You’re probably already feeling bored, annoyed, or checked out. 

Now imagine walking into that same room with an up-tempo, feel-good song playing through speakers in the room. People are smiling and bopping along to the beat. Someone comments that they love this song, and you jump in to talk about some other favorite songs by this artist. With music playing, you’ll set a better tone for your meeting.

Pro Tip: Plan your music in advance for best results. You’ll avoid any awkward silences between songs and set yourself up for smooth success. You might even engage the team by taking a poll of their favorite songs before your event so that you can create a collaborative playlist.

2) Hire a great live performer

Just like the cave person and his/her/their flute around the tribal fire, live music at a corporate event can become a focal point of connection and engagement for your group. Whether it’s a songwriter playing acoustic guitar and sharing stories behind the songs or a rocking band bringing down the house with their renditions of favorite songs, your team will appreciate the treat. You’ll make connections while they sing along and feel the music together.

Pro Tip: Connect with the performer beforehand and talk through any important themes for your event. Maybe you’re just looking to boost morale and have fun. In that case, the performer could focus on upbeat songs with a positive message. Perhaps you have recently overcome a big challenge as a team. In that case, the performer could share songs of resilience that celebrate your success and tenacity.

3) Get Rhythmic Together

There are plenty of different ways to get musical with your team, and one of them is team building through drumming. Expert drummers can guide you through a group participation experience in which everyone has a part to play. When you build a cohesive percussion experience with your group, you’ll bring the beating heart of rhythm to your conference or event. You’ll get all the brain boosting, connection of music. And you’ll build confidence and bond. After all, bands are a shining example of camaraderie at work.

4) Tell your story through song  

Using songwriting as a team building program adds a layer of meaning to the musical experience that magnifies connectivity to the max. What music could be more impactful than a song you write yourselves?

With a little bit of motivation, a dash of content gathering and a sprinkle of egg shaker magic, your employees will engage and connect. Writing a song together will help everyone resonate with your organization’s themes and identity as you tell your story through song. 

Office camaraderie is a worthwhile goal. It’s a driver of engagement, productivity and retention. Music should be one of the key tools in your tool kit when you’re planning programs to bring your team to the next level. Don’t let the silence bring you down. Get your company in the groove.

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.