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If employees sing together, it encourages teamwork, improves morale, boosts productivity, creativity and engagement. That’s the thinking behind workplace choirs – and it’s backed up by science and case studies, as July’s InsideOut discovers…

Most New Year resolutions are forgotten by mid-January, but Rosie Sayers’ pledge changed her life.

“I woke up on New Year’s Day a few years ago and decided to write some resolutions, and one was to do something creative,” she tells the current edition of InsideOut, the free magazine for IoIC members.

“I was a working mum with a young child, so I wasn’t doing much else. I’ve always loved singing even though I’m not a great singer, so I went along to a local choir.

“It helps a team of people connect. They usually learn quickly and have a lot of fun together. Singing together inspires people and helps get the best out of them.”

“The sense of belonging and camaraderie was immediate, also the sense of going on a journey. We learned 24 songs in 12 weeks and within three months I sang at the Royal Albert Hall. It was one of the best days of my life! The sense of elation was huge.

“When you sing together you release happy hormones into your brain, ones that you only usually get from physical contact with other people.

“When babies are little, we sing to them. We sing to celebrate, we sing in church, or at football. People love singing together, you belong to something, it’s passionate! I got it instantly and it’s addictive.”

She went on to set up her own community choir, Sing It Loud in Leamington Spa, raising money for charity through concerts. Singing was having such an effect, Rosie realised there was even more to be done.

With a background in marketing and business strategy, it wasn’t long before she thought about applying group singing to business.

“Because I came from a corporate background I understand about profit and loss and professionalism,” she says. “I also understood the benefits of having a choir in the workplace, making people feel welcome and part of something special.

“For a lot of people they don’t get that sense of being connected in life. We all live disparate lives…”

She met Mercury-nominated producer Andy Guthrie at a choir session he was leading in 2013, and suggested the idea of workplace choirs.

Within three months they had set up the Workplace Choir Company and it was soon their full-time occupation.

They have helped establish choirs at a range of organisations from trade union Unison and travel company TUI to theLondon Taxi Company and Leeds-based audit, tax and consulting firm, RSM .

“So far, we have a 100% retention rate,” says Rosie. “Most signed up to do one season, a 12-week programme, and then stay on to do more.”

Workplace choirs have become an integral part of the wellbeing and engagement programmes at many organisations and has helped employees bond in different ways.

“When we started working with the London Taxi Company two years ago they were threatened with closure and the choir helped maintain the team’s morale through difficult times,” she explains.

“We’ve just started work with a group of solicitors formed from two companies. They’re using the choir to help that journey from competitors to colleagues, it takes them out of their comfort zone and gets them working together.”

Rosie says there’s no need for employees to be great singers at the start.

“A lot of people – especially blokes - say ‘Oh I don’t sing’ and I say ‘I bet you do, but it’s not in front of an audience’. Most people sing in the shower or in their car, or maybe at football matches.

“We absolutely encourage people who don’t think they can sing. Everyone can sing, it’s just a matter of learning how. We teach breathing, using your diaphragm and where to sing from. There’s a lot of instruction but by the end of 12 weeks the singers are very accomplished.”

As for the songs, Rosie says: “We pick songs that reflect the business, the purpose behind the choir. So at Unison they do things like Lean On MeSomething Inside So Strong and we’ve written a song for them called Together We Are Stronger, which they’re going to perform at the TUC Conference.

“We also do some Take That, or Christmas songs. It tends to be around the concept of getting by with a little help from your friends, and we’re in this together. Songs like the Bruno Mars’ Count On Me.”

“It helps a team of people connect. They usually learn quickly and have a lot of fun together. Singing together inspires people and helps get the best out of them.”

IoIC members can read the full feature about workplace choirs and engagement in July’s InsideOut. It includes case studies from holiday company TUI and Leeds audit, tax and consulting firm, RSM, as well as research from the University of Oxford.
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