Music increases staff morale also in retail sector

New research by PPL and PRS for Music states that:

  • 65% say music makes employees in the retail sector more productive
  • 75% believe that background music could help to relax and minimize awkward silences in workplaces

This is an interesting piece of research, as this is one of the first times that a study has focused on employees working in the retail sector – a gap in the research area of music in workplaces that I pointed out in my research on music listening in offices.

The study reports several positive effects of music, and these are similar to the functions of music in office environments:

  • Relaxation, reduction of stress
  • Configuring the auditory landscape (reducing silence)

Dr Vicky Williamson adds: “Music positively influences consumer mood/emotional states through psycho-physiological reactions and autobiographical memory associations”, and that “a completely silent work environment can lack stimulation, interest and, for many people, a dynamic and creative source of energy”.

Other positive effects of music listening at work, known from previous research are:

  • Avoiding boredom
  • Avoiding unwanted interruptions
  • Allowing employees a sense of freedom and identity marking

This is all very good. However, what also transpired from research into music listening in offices is that choice is a powerful aspect. Having to listen to imposed music – without any control over it – can be detrimental to employees. It is easier to choose your music in an office environment, but in a store where music is played through a PA system employees listen to the same music at the same time. If this music is disliked, it can cause irritation and stress for employees.

For example, one participant in my previous survey study on listening practices in offices also worked part-time in a large UK supermarket. He said:

At Christmas we get the same 3 Christmas CDs over and over for the full 9 hour shift… torture!! I’m sure there’s a human rights cruelty issue here…

The influence of music choice on employees is something that would need to be investigated further, and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that music is not always enjoyable among employees in the retail sector. Furthermore, we don’t yet know whether music actually makes employees in the retail sector more productive, or whether this is mainly a belief among business owners and managers.

Music listening is by no means a ‘magic pill’, or a perfect solution to problems with stress and staff morale in organisation. Yet, it is worth noting the positive effects that music listening can have at work.

This piece of research could provide a starting point for further research into how music affects the employees in retail environments. Effects on employees may indirectly influence customer behaviour and store spending positively, through customer service behaviour, mood and helpfulness. But if music affects employees negatively, there may also be other financial drawbacks, such as high staff turnover costs, low morale and effectiveness, high absenteeism through sickness, and other health issues.

By considering the beneficial effects of music at work, but also minimising the negative ones, music can continue to perform an important role in the everyday lives of employees throughout their working day.


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