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COVID-19: What if your staff cannot work from home?

By Retail Technology | Friday March 27 2020

If working from home isn’t viable for your retail business, how do you keep your workers safe throughout the COVID-19 crisis? Erik Fjellborg, CEO and Founder of Quinyx, gives his thoughts

While many workers are able to follow the government directive to work from home, for thousands of retail workers, this simply isn’t an option. From those on the frontline in supermarkets, to delivery people, to warehouse operatives, the retail sector is made up of jobs that can’t be done sitting at the dining room table.

During these troubling times, these workers are tirelessly trying to keep our shelves stocked and the supply chain running; so, it’s only fair that employers work to offer as much flexibility as they possibly can, to ensure key retail workers are kept safe and well.

There are a number of ways that employers can do this:

Make flexibility work:

Flexible working shouldn’t just be for office workers. Now, more than ever, it is critical that shift workers and manual workers also gain from the plethora of benefits that flexible working brings. The biggest challenge, however, is getting businesses to embrace the change. Understanding the opportunity, and making flexibility an option, is a crucial first step.

Flexible shifts

Give staff the option to be flexible with the start and end times for their shifts. It’s no secret that even following the government’s latest advice, rush hour - particularly in big cities - can be concerning for workers, even now with the majority of people working from home. Letting staff start and finish earlier or later can help them avoid busy trains and buses, or even make other forms of transport more viable (such as walking or cycling). Similarly, offering staff the option to work longer shifts, with more days off, means they can receive the same amount of pay while travelling less.

Managing these sorts of shift patterns doesn’t have to be a logistical nightmare. Mobile technologies can benefit both employer and employee by streamlining and simplifying the process of finding shift patterns that work for all.

Flexible travel

If high customer demand and staff absence means employees are required to work at a different store to their usual one, consider temporarily subsidising petrol costs or taxis to help them get around as safely as possible. These relatively small and short-term expenses will make a huge difference in the health and well-being of your staff during these unprecedented times.

Flexible roles

While those with serious underlying medical conditions must isolate and not work at all, retailers may have members of staff with other health issues that don’t prevent them from working but should still be taken into consideration. If staff members are suffering with health anxiety, consider amending their role so they have less customer-facing contact - from working on tills to stocking shelves, for example.

Clear communication

Communicating with retail staff on the front line has always been a challenge for retailers, but in the midst of Covid-19 this has become more apparent than ever. Now, it’s vital that retailers keep employees up to date on a variety of issues, whether that’s government updates, staff absences or safety procedures. And having the right technology in place can make logistical issues with communication far easier.

This can be easy to implement, and Quinyx is offering 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.

Check the ‘pulse’ of your workforce

Retail workers are arguably some of the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. From stockpiling, to social distancing, to stock shortages, they are facing some of the worst outcomes head on. Keeping an eye on their emotional well-being will be as important as their physical wellbeing over the next few months, as roles become increasingly stressful. Mobile apps can allow retailers to send quick surveys and questions to teams to get an instant picture of morale - letting managers and head office know if they need to take action to assist staff.

During this period, retail employees are working incredibly hard to ensure the safety and health of millions of shoppers. With tensions running high, and necessary goods so in demand, the nature of their work is undeniably essential. Retailers therefore need to be doing everything in their power to support their staff - by being as flexible as possible, communicating clearly and checking in regularly.

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