And so this is Christmas… Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way… Frosty the snowman…

Walk into any shop at the moment and a medley of these little Christmas musical chestnuts will most likely be playing. And what could be more wonderful than being reminded of the joy of Christmas whilst elbowing your fellow Christmas shoppers out of the way to look for some suitably dull socks for Uncle Albert?

Well, unfortunately, some workers have written to Santa to request the banning of Christmas songs in their workplace! Now, that’s a bit extreme but let’s back up a little bit here.

For some years now, various worker unions around the world have protested against Christmas songs being played on loop in shops. Why? Well, at their nicest, unions have (pretty fairly you would imagine) described constantly looped Christmas music as ‘annoying’ and potentially ‘frustrating’ to their workers. However, the most forthright unions have gone so far as to say it ‘risks the mental health’ of workers.

So, what’s the truth?  Well, as always, it depends on the circumstances.

If a shop constantly plays one hour’s worth of Christmas music on loop every single hour from the start of November to the end of December then, yes, that will be extremely annoying to staff. Does it risk their health? Probably not but, let’s sympathise here, imagine collapsing down onto the sofa after a long day at work and not being able to get the tune to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer out of your head!  It sounds akin to that US army ‘torture’ tactic of playing the theme tune to Barney on repeat…

In some circumstances, employees have been caught deliberately breaking the CD player and/or speakers just to get a few minutes peace! However, on the other hand, shoppers are likely to be in a more Christmassy mood (and spend more money) if festive music is playing! So, what’s the compromise here?

Well, let’s use the example of a department store (called ‘National Elf Service’) open between 7am – 9pm. On weekdays, the store is quiet between 7am – 11.30am and 2pm – 4.30pm, so why not turn off the Christmas music during those periods? Also, why not create various different Christmas playlists, so workers don’t hear the same ones over and over again? A bit of I’m dreaming of a white Christmas to break up the more jingle-y numbers perhaps… Little changes like this will help employee morale and avoid workers snapping due to being subjected to constant Christmas jingles!

Now, from a health and safety point of view, I can’t see a health risk to employees in any event other than the music being played too loud. But, from an employee relations point of view, some small changes may help employees get into the Christmas spirit and agree that it is really is the most wonderful time of the year…

1 Comment

  1. When I was working for Virgin Retail (many, many years ago!) not only did we have the obligatory Christmas loop, we also played the big albums back to back all week. That’s why I can’t listen any more to Sade’s Diamond Life, Michael Jackson’s Bad and, above all, Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms. All great albums of their time but can’t think of listening to them now. By the way, one for the young ones here, they were all 33rpms played on the record deck under the counter!

    However, we did branch out occasionally and when I was at York’s “Megastore” we were single handedly responsible for getting several local night club favourites into the top 40 – proof that it works.

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