Working retail during the holidays used to cause great stress to Andrew Smith. The increase in customer stress and traffic flow on the sales floor compounded operational difficulties creating a less than stable environment.
“You move through more stock than any other time of year, which increases every element of work as a retailer,” said Smith, co-founder of the retail innovation consultancy, ThinkUncommon. The group helps retailers and their partners make effective, needed changes in a timely manner. “It’s pure chaos: A [clothes] rack goes down, a toilet leaks, a child vomits in the same aisle the clothes rack went down, you have a line out the door. There are usually no breaks, and you barely have time to grab a drink of water.”
Smith added that on top of all those stressors for retail employees, customers are equally at their wits end with the holidays. It’s common to hear customers tell retail employees how “they ruined the holidays” or make passive-aggressive, rude remarks.
In short, the holidays wreak havoc on the mental wellbeing of retail employees. In Smith’s experience, he said the main thing that helps get employees through the chaotic holiday season is their team. He has worked in retail for more than 20 years, starting on the shop floor and then proceeding to take on many roles from workforce planning to technology before leading retail operations.
“After work, you get home utterly spent, and you still have regular life to deal with,” he said. “The thing that gets you through is your team. There is no work family like a retail store family. The bond that comes from the experiences you go through is unbreakable. ” Part of being on a strong team at work is noticing when others may need help.
You can support and encourage co-workers this holiday season.
Smith also emphasized that prioritizing your mental health during the holidays has never been more important. And the experience of it all can be valuable if balanced with self-care. “The holiday season is intense for anyone in retail, especially for leaders, but you go through it, and you learn incredible skills,” he said.
Here are some ways you can bolster your personal mental health this holiday season.
You are not alone this holiday season. There are programs that can help retailers with employee mental health such as MHFA at Work for Retail. Get your boss on board with this template, which provides a few talking points to get started.
MHFA is an evidence-based training program that teaches people how to look for the signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges. Knowing how to recognize that someone may need help – and learning how to approach and respond – can be a useful skill before the holidays hit.
#BeTheDifference to yourself and fellow retail workers. Give the greatest gift of all: mental health support!