COVID-19, Christmas and working conditions are stressing retail workers out

Discussion
Source: Walmart
Sep 04, 2020
George Anderson

Some retailers may have eliminated hazard pay, but the threat of COVID-19 is far from over and frontline workers are feeling the pressure.

Fifty-five percent of retail workers are feeling more stressed during the crisis, 60 percent report having higher levels of anxiety and 53 percent greater frustration, according to the findings of a new survey by TollFreeForwarding.com shared with RetailWire.

The length of the crisis and the associated pressures are also affecting retail workers’ job performance. Thirty-one say it has affected the quality of their work, 42 percent cite less motivation and 48 percent report having sleep issues.

Workers need and are looking for more support from their employers, with many expecting to see even more demands placed on them as the Christmas selling season approaches. Retailers are looking to spread out the crowds of people in stores by beginning holiday promotions next month. This may help in one respect, but many believe the workload will be shifted to store-level workers engaged in fulfilling online orders and those laboring in warehouses, struggling to keep pace with potentially record levels of purchases made by consumers.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that workers in online fulfillment warehouses have seen conditions on the job deteriorate as they try to keep up with demands.

“We see it every year: When demand increases, so does the pressure on warehouse workers,” Beth Gutelius, associate director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Post. “This year, many workers are already operating at elevated levels because of the pandemic. Then you layer the holiday peak season on top of that, along with a surge of new hires, and there are real questions about worker safety.”

Amazon.com is expected to run its annual Prime Day promotion next month and many others are likely to have competing events. Sales generated in last year’s 48-hour promotion exceeded Amazon’s combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Research from Coresight Research recently found that one-third of Americans are expecting to make purchases on Prime Day this year. Twenty-five percent expect to do the same on Cyber Monday and 16 percent will purchase something on Black Friday.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that demands related to the continuing pandemic and the upcoming holidays are increasing stress levels for retail workers? How can retailers meet the needs of customers and protect the health of its workers, including their mental health, in the weeks and months to come?

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"It’s in retailers’ best interests to keep workers feeling healthy, safe and valued. "
"There is no question that retail, CPG, healthcare, police and so many other professions are working “with their hair on fire” due to all of the crises today."
"Remember those photos of hundreds of shoppers eager to storm the doors for Black Friday sales? Those people will be shopping, but from their homes..."

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8 Comments on "COVID-19, Christmas and working conditions are stressing retail workers out"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

The holidays are always a stressful period for retail workers. While it is supposed to be a jolly time of year, for those in retail it is busy and often involves having to deal with stressed and occasionally rude customers. Add the concerns about the pandemic and some of the operational pressures from things like increased fulfilment from stores into the mix and you have a recipe for a very challenging period. Retailers must ensure they look after the health and wellness of their employees and provide good training and a generous bonus for a job well done.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

The pandemic and upcoming holidays are stressing out everyone in retail – except Jeff Bezos.

As the studies show, frontline and warehouse workers face intense physical, emotional and mental stressors this year. Retailers need to pay attention, as workers’ sense of uncertainty and powerlessness harms productivity and morale.

It’s in retailers’ best interests to keep workers feeling healthy, safe and valued. Providing a degree of schedule flexibility, Q4 bonuses, mental health resources and, ideally, health benefits and permanent roles could help workers feel cared for and motivated to persevere and give their best.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

There is no question that retail, CPG, healthcare, police and so many other professions are working “with their hair on fire” due to all of the crises today. For retailers, the need is there to be sensitive to the mental and physical health of employees. With the holiday season approaching and expectations reaching record levels for revenues, the time is now to survey all employees anonymously to identify critical trends and immediately respond to those issues with targeted solutions.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Remember those photos of hundreds of shoppers eager to storm the doors for Black Friday sales? Those people will be shopping, but from their homes, and a new army of sales associates will be tasked with fulfilling those orders from stores. It will be important for retail companies to take care of those workers, and compensate them fairly. Reputations depend on it.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

I’d now add the whole delivery chain of workers to this list. From warehouse pickers and packers to USPS, and UPS, and FedEx, and Amazon van drivers, and …

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Exactly right, Jeff! And further back into the food chain to those (often migrants and others who are without the wages, care, dignity and support they deserve) who are growing, picking, processing and transporting our food and other products.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust
The challenge in the warehouses is a relatively short term problem. Amazon, Walmart, Target were caught flatfooted in Q2. No business can react to the increases they experienced in the short-term. These companies are so focused on efficacy that they are investing in smoother operations which will take pressure off the workers. But it takes time. The Christmas season will be very telling and my prediction is it will be smoother than previous ones. As for the in-store workers, if I didn’t read the data I would say that the stress level is declining. But that is because of what I see here in NYC. After reading the data and thinking it through, of course, the stress level is high and will remain high. Though NYC is doing extraordinarily well, the U.S.’s overall performance is comparable to underdeveloped countries. What should retailers do? Keep it simple. Staff and customers wear masks. There is no better first line of defense. Sitting at my coffee place (outside) I see, as I write, 16 people walk by. Every… Read more »
Bindu Gupta
BrainTrust

Holiday season in general coupled with the pandemic is sure to increase stress levels of retail workers. Retailers need to tie up with health experts to provide the necessary support their workers needs at this time, including a good incentive program to appreciate them for all their hard work.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It’s in retailers’ best interests to keep workers feeling healthy, safe and valued. "
"There is no question that retail, CPG, healthcare, police and so many other professions are working “with their hair on fire” due to all of the crises today."
"Remember those photos of hundreds of shoppers eager to storm the doors for Black Friday sales? Those people will be shopping, but from their homes..."

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