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Keeping shop workers safe through Covid-19

This week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised workers across the UK to work from home if possible. But for thousands of workers, this simply isn’t an option – there are a large number of jobs that can’t be done sitting at the dining room table. The retail sector is a prime example of this, and in between panic shopping sprees and stressed out customers, they are some of the most at risk workers during this time.

At the forefront of this crisis, they are working tirelessly to keep our shelves stocked and to deliver goods to those in need. 

But while working from home isn’t something retailers are able to offer their staff, that’s not to say they shouldn’t take steps to improve conditions. So, here are a few things retailers could – and should – consider offering to their staff.

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Flexibility in all forms 

Flexible working is no longer the trope of office workers in suits – taking laptops on trains or to cafes and flexing their hours around their lifestyle. Flexibility can work for shift workers and frontline retail workers too, if businesses are willing to make changes.

Flexible shifts 

Give staff the option to flex their shifts. Rush hour – particularly in big cities – can be concerning for workers. Consider letting staff start and finish early (or late) to enable them to avoid busy trains and buses. Similarly, offering staff the option to work longer shifts, with more days off, means they can receive the same amount of pay with less commuting. 

Managing these variable shift patterns doesn’t have to be a time-consuming and logistical nightmare, thanks to mobile-based technologies that benefit both employer and employee in streamlining and simplifying the process of finding shift patterns that work for all. 

Flexible travel 

Support staff with travel. If high customer demand and staff absence means employees are required to work at a different store to their usual one, or have to travel at rush hour, consider temporarily subsiding petrol costs or taxis to help them get around as safely as possible.  

Flexible roles

While those with serious underlying medical conditions have been advised to isolate, retailers may have members of staff with other health issues that don’t prevent them from working, but still should be taken into consideration. For example, if an individual has anxiety that is heightened by the current situation, consider flexing their role so they have less customer-facing contact – from working tills to stocking shelves. 

Clear communication 

Communicating with a deskless retail workforce is a longstanding challenge for retailers and has only been exacerbated as a result of Covid-19. But communicating key information to keep staff safe and healthy has never been more important. It’s vital that retailers update employees on the status of the organisation, staffing needs, and opening hours, as well as new health and safety policies and procedures. Having the right technology in place to enable businesses to keep clear channels of communication open with frontline staff is critical. 

Check the ‘pulse’ of your workforce 

While we’re all affected by the impact of coronavirus, the impact upon retail workers is unquestionably significant. Consumer panic around stockpiling has reportedly manifested, in some instances, in abuse and violence against retail workers. Keeping an eye on how employees are feeling and coping over the coming weeks is key.

Things like mobile apps can enable retailers to send a quick survey to teams to get an instant picture of morale and wellbeing – and let them know if they need to take action to assist staff. And this can be easy to implement, in fact to help retail businesses monitor the mental health and wellbeing of their employees, we are providing open access to our communication module and mobile app for any company looking to facilitate easy communication between employers and employees during this unusual period. 

One thing that is for sure in these otherwise uncertain times, is that retail workers are playing a critical role in keeping the nation supplied with necessary goods. It is important that businesses do all they can to support their staff – by being as flexible as possible, communicating clearly and checking in regularly. In times of crisis, people are more important than ever and it’s vital to do whatever you can to support them. 

Erik Fjellborg, CEO and Founder of Quinyx

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