I’m always encouraging people to make music during the day as part of a regular wellness regime. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote  9 Crazy Ideas for Playful Spontaneity during the Work Day. This time, you can see how easy it is to jam with your office mates.

I dedicate this post to John Kozak, co-owner of  Fulton & Kozak, CPAs. The full story of my inspiration can be found below. This post is also a gift to all of my CPA friends, my dad, my mom, my brother, my sister-in-law, and everyone at F&K in Morrow, Georgia for the end of tax season. Congratulations everybody! Now you can relax and start an office jam session!

A friend the other day told me about their 2 o’clock office gong break. Apparently, at 2PM every day, all the employees take a minute to reflect during the ringing of the gong. What a great idea to encourage checking in with yourself and/or a feeling of relaxation. Let’s take music & wellness in the workplace further now by jamming with your co-workers.

The first steps to an office jam session are just as important as the instruments you choose to play. A balance of good preparation and adapting in the moment will make for good rhythm at your place of employment.

Get started here:

1. Conspire with others. There is power in numbers.

Decide on the time and location of the first jam. Are you going to start the jam spontaneously, or are you going to plan a first rehearsal? What fits the culture of your office? You could try to start a jam spontaneously. For instance, go visit a friend in his/her cube, and start stapling the stapler in rhythm. See what your friend does. Maybe he’ll join in… If he responds verbally, just keep bobbing your head to the beat and smiling. If you’re going with spontaneity, then skip #3.

3. Set up a first rehearsal. Send out a memo, email or tweet that gives everyone a time and a place for the meeting. You can decide whether or not to make the jamming aspect of the meeting a surprise. You could call it a “Team Builder” or an “Office Refresher.”

4. Designate players. Don’t ask if he/she would like to play. That gives him/her a chance to say no. For instance, go up and hand the hole puncher to someone, and demonstrate how to make rhythm with the hole puncher. The more nonverbal you can make the instructions, the better, because people will focus more on the rhythm and less on verbal comments.

Make sure someone reliable is laying down the bass. A key to any successful first-time jam session is finding someone who can keep a steady foundational beat. Give that person an instrument with a low pitch such as the large water bottle or an upside down bucket.
Use these mallets: Pencils, pens, highlighters, rulers, letter openers, closed scissors, forks, knives, spoons

Play with these office items:
1. Strike a large community water dispenser with mallet
2. Staple a stapler. Staples are cheap, so use them rhythmically!
3. Punch and release a hole puncher. One, two, three, and more holes work.
4. Stretch and pluck rubber bands melodically.
5. Shake paperclips or thumbtacks in their container.
6. Jingle car keys or coinage rhythmically.
7. Use a mallet to strike and slide across a small, ribbed water bottle as a guiro.
8. Make sure the computer power is off, and slide a mallet across the keyboard, another guiro.
9. Slide and strike a mallet on an air vent, another guiro.
10. Flip the pages of a large book slowly, another guiro.
11. Open and close the microwave door if the kitchen is handy.
12. Strike an upside-down bucket. You might find one under the sink in the bathroom.
13. Pop bubble plastic.
14. Click a retractable pen on and off.
15. Crumple paper or rub two pieces together rhythmically.
16. Play a cell phone ringer as a last resort unless you can find one that you can adapt to the group’s rhythm.
17. Play a MacIntosh or PC start up sound, another last resort.
Let me know how your office jam turns out!

Here’s the story that inspired me to write about an office jam session:

My parents bravely established a small accounting firm in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1984. That was with 4 kids and $0.00 income. My brother and his business partner John purchased the flourishing firm (now with 20+ employees) a few years ago.

In the summer of 2000, I worked as the receptionist at the business. John and I would play pranks on each other. I would slip subliminal messages underneath all the business bullet points on his dry-erase board about how he should go out and buy  my favorite potato chips, he would switch around my desk drawers, I would glue on all the caps to his pens, he would set my cell phone to Spanish, and we would greet each other with a “Kathryn” and “John” like Neuman and Jerry in Seinfeld.

My family knew that working in an office all day (instead of making music) gave me nausea, dizziness, dry eyes, and headaches. So, to break from the monotony, I decided to shake things up a bit. I went to the intercom when everyone was out at lunch, except John. I was hoping that John didn’t know everyone was gone. That way, John would be tricked into thinking that everyone was listening!

I announced, “Attention all DJ Fulton CPA employees, as part of the implementation of the new Corporate Zerotasking Campaign we are calling all of you in for a mandatory dance party on John’s desk in 60 seconds. That’s on John’s desk in 60 seconds. Please quit your blamestorming and come down for a dance party on John’s desk now.

He flew into my office with a face as red as the Georgia red clay on a rainy day! It worked ~ He thought everyone heard the announcement! I thought he might explode.

And then, much to my surprise, one kind, gentle, extremely reserved, rule-following employee arrived at my desk to ask about the dance party. I hadn’t intended for anyone actually to HEAR that announcement! Whoops. Joke was on me. This kind of behavior just isn’t appropriate for an accounting office, right? My face was Georgia red clay…

I’ve since decided that a dance party on top of a coworker’s desk may be asking too much. Knowing what I know now, an office jam session would be a much more effective intra-office experience!

Have you had any musical interactions with your office mates? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Photo courtesy of Carlos Porto.

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