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How to help your staff feel safe during a pandemic

With the recent announcement of non-essential retail shops set to open up again in the UK on 12th April, it’s time for retail staff and bosses alike to start preparing for opening up shop again.

While for many small business owners this feels like the light at the end of the tunnel, and lots of workers are excited to return to a sense of normality, for many, there is a sense of anxious anticipation. Do your staff need to feel safe before you re-open?

Whilst the UK is vaccinating the population at an incredible rate, when shops do re-open on the 12th of April there’ll still be a large amount of our population who are unvaccinated. Many retail workers, in fact, will return to work where they’ll be coming into contact with other people on a daily basis, and will still be unvaccinated.

This has led to many workers feeling anxious and worried about heading back to work, especially after being in a

lockdown bubble for so long, where they’ve been able to be in full control of their own social distancing and how many people they’re coming into contact with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this worry can lead to a really negative effect on their mental health.

As a business owner or retail manager, it’s in your interest to make sure that your staff are returning to work feeling happy and confident. Not only will this have a positive effect on productivity, but it’ll also impact customer service. So making sure your staff feel safe and comfortable returning to work during the pandemic should be top of your agenda.

Let’s take a look at a few of the small, simple steps you can take to improve your staff’s confidence when coming back to work.

Decide on clear protocols

Before you think about heading back to your store, first sit down and decide on some clear protocols. Are there any small areas of your store that would be difficult to social distance in? If so, do you need to make a one-way route through your store for customers? Will you be limiting the number of customers allowed in at any time? If so, how many seems a safe number given the amount of space you have in store?

Provide plenty of PPE

Get prepared for your reopening by stocking up on PPE. It’s a good idea to provide staff with hand sanitiser, disposable face masks and disposable gloves. If you leave plenty of disposable PPE options lying around, then staff understand that they’re free to use these at their own discretion to help them feel safe.

Although in the early days of the pandemic, getting hold of PPE supplies could be challenging, PPE production has since been ramped up all over the world. For instance, it is now much easier to purchase disposable gloves to protect your hands in bulk. You can check out Unigloves and other PPE suppliers online to learn more about the benefits of purchasing PPE supplies in bulk.

Give a clear briefing

To help your staff feel comfortable before they come back to work, it’s a good idea to invite them to a meeting in-store before you open. Invite them in to get a feel for any new rules you’ve put in place – for example, new limits on customers in certain spaces, any one-way systems etc. This is a great chance for you to clearly explain any of the new protocols you want to put in place, which will help that first day back to work feel far less daunting.

Ask for input

One of the best ways to tackle anxiety on return to work is to give your staff the opportunity to make any suggestions that would make them feel more comfortable. Remember that when it comes to living in a pandemic, we all have different levels of what we’re comfortable with. Some of us are happy meeting with friends and feel we’re low risk, whereas others are more comfortable abiding by strict social distancing rules. So give your staff the chance to make suggestions with what would make them more comfortable in the workplace. If you can give them the chance to do this anonymously, then even better – they may feel happier providing these suggestions with this way. Make sure you take on board all suggestions, even if they won’t work in your business, at least address them in your team meeting and explain why they can’t work, but what you’ll do instead.

Following these simple steps can really make a huge difference to how your team feels about returning to work. They won’t cost you a lot, but in return, they can have a huge impact on the productivity of your team members as well as the happiness and loyalty of your customers. Best of luck re-opening your retail store in April!