The Tokyo Olympics were memorable for many reasons. Seeing the games go ahead after a delay of a year was a huge relief, and the success of team GB gave us all a much needed reason to celebrate. Most of all though, Tokyo 2020 will be remembered for shining a light on mental health. Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, Adam Peaty and many others spoke frankly about the pressures they were facing, hopefully marking the start of an open discussion about mental health in sport.
The mental health crisis in retail
It’s not just elite athletes that struggle with pressure at work. The pandemic saw retail colleagues facing challenges far beyond their job descriptions. From managing outdoor queues to enforcing social distancing, they were suddenly responsible for the safety of the public at a time of crisis. This was a huge burden to place on retail colleagues, a third of whom are under 25. Unsurprisingly, many found it hard to cope:
- 84% of retail colleagues reported a deterioration in their mental health during the pandemic
- Nearly three quarters said that their eating and sleeping habits had been affected
- 63% of retail managers felt overwhelmed by the pressure
You would expect the public to rally around colleagues in such a difficult time, but this was sadly not the case. In fact, abusive behaviour from customers skyrocketed:
- 88% of retail colleagues suffered verbal abuse in 2020
- One in six suffered abuse every shift
- In our own survey of customers, 21% admitted to shouting at colleagues and 7% said they shout all the time
Smaller teams are especially vulnerable
This behaviour can be especially intimidating for colleagues working in small teams. With fewer colleagues to offer support, the fear of being left alone with an abusive customer is ever-present. Our 2020 survey of retail workers showed the extent to which colleagues feel threatened:
- 37% feel unsafe when they are outnumbered by customers
- 33% feel vulnerable when working alone
- 33% feel cut off from colleagues or security teams
Many retailers have been forced to make cuts to compensate for the losses of the pandemic. This means smaller teams will become increasingly common. Coping with fewer colleagues will always be challenging, but there are ways to improve the situation. By focusing on communication, you can ensure that colleagues in smaller teams do not feel overwhelmed. This is where we can help:
- Headsets keep colleagues connected at all times. Even if a colleague is working alone, they are reassured that help is always at hand. If a customer behaves aggressively, colleagues know that they can call security immediately.
- Headsets can be integrated with your telephone system. This allows colleagues to call emergency services with a single button press. This is especially reassuring for colleagues working alone or at night.
- Headsets allow colleagues to perform tasks more efficiently. They can check stock levels and product information without crossing the store, and they can answer customer queries without pausing their work. This allows them to get more done in less time, reducing the stress of an unmanageable workload.
- Keypads provide peace of mind for checkout colleagues. If they need support, they can press the appropriate button on the keypad to summon help without leaving their position.
A smaller team doesn’t have to mean a lack of support. By creating a reliable channel of communication, VoCoVo ensures that colleagues never have to face the challenges of the shop floor alone.