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Recreational Music-Making (RMM): a human resources perspective

By: Barry Bittman, MD
Category: Wellness
Population Served: Corporate Employees

Recreational Music-Making (RMM): a human resources perspective

An accessible, affordable and sustainable strategy with targeted objectives that extend into realms apart from performance and mastery, RMM has been shown to serve as an effective and engaging team-building strategy within the workplace. A summary of recently published findings is presented to document potential considerations for introducing RMM as an empowering human resources initiative.

According to Karl T. Bruhn, father of the music-making and wellness movement, "RMM encompasses enjoyable, accessible and fulfilling group music-based activities that unite people of all ages regardless of their challenges, backgrounds, ethnicity, ability or prior experience. From exercise, nurturing, social support, bonding and spirituality, to intellectual stimulation, heightened understanding and enhanced capacity to cope with life's challenges, the benefits of RMM extend far beyond just music."

Three primary objectives characterize the decision to introduce RMM as a team building strategy in the workplace. These include: wellness promotion (stress reduction/mood improvement), burnout reduction and retention enhancement.
The following research-based insights document the inherent value of RMM as a human resources initiative.

According to an article that appeared in the September 27th 2004 issue of Newsweek, "experts claim that 60-90 percent of doctor visits involve stress-related complaints." On September 5th 2004, The New York Times reported that, "workplace stress costs the nation more than $300 billion each year." For the first time in the history of medicine, the successful reversal of key elements of the human stress response has been documented on the DNA level utilizing a RMM strategy.

According to Braun Consulting News, "Depression in the US population affects about 19 million people. Of the 19 million Americans diagnosed with depression, about 70% are in the work force." The economic impact of depression in the workplace includes direct costs of approximately $11 billion annually for treatment, indirect costs totaling $12 billion for absenteeism, and $11 billion from decreased productivity while on the job. Recent research performed in the highly stressed long-term care industry revealed reduced depression (21.8%) 6 weeks after the completion of a 6-week (1 hour/week) RMM program.

Multiple factors influence an employee's likelihood to remain productive and contribute meaningfully to the job. These include 6 extensively studied mood factors that include tension/anxiety, depression/dejection, anger/hostility, vigor/activity, fatigue/inertia and confusion/bewilderment. Total Mood Disturbance (TMD) is a mathematical aggregate of these factors. In long-term care workers, TMD was reduced by 62.3% 6 weeks after the completion of a 6-week (1 hour/week) RMM program.

Burnout is one of the most highly threatening and pervasive factors that severely limits employee effectiveness, team building and ability to remain on the job. It is characterized by 3 key factors that include: depersonalization, emotional exhaustion and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. Burnout reduction in a stressed long-term care workforce revealed reductions of emotional exhaustion (19%), depersonalization (16%) and improvements in sense of personal accomplishment (5.1%) 6 weeks after the completion of a 6-week (1 hour/week) RMM program.

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