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staff safety

Is the retail sector facing a well-being crisis?

How happy are people working in retail? Not happy enough, a new study conducted by the Retail Trust suggests.

Pre-COVID, retail was one of the unhappiest industries to work in and despite a 4% increase in happiness levels in 2022, it’s still one of the lowest ranking sectors for employee satisfaction, according to the latest data.

During the pandemic, retail workers across all product sectors had little choice but to juggle all the extra working pressures that COVID and its associated restrictions delivered. On top of the strain of dealing with the very human side of the health crisis – avoiding catching COVID themselves and/or caring for friends and relatives infected with it – there have been significant supply chain issues to deal with, and skills shortages that are ongoing. 

Cut to now and, as we speed towards 2023, rising inflation and the cost of living are new issues to consider. Meantime, it’s still business as usual with regards the usual pressures, such as coping with under-resourced teams and customer aggression.

Abuse in the retail industry continues to rise, with over a million incidents of verbal abuse reported in the latest ACS Crime Report and an estimated 40,000 violent incidents in the sector. 

All these things considered, it’s no surprise then that 83% of retail employees have experienced a deterioration in their mental health, as revealed in the Retail Trust research. For 43% of employees, a decrease in their general sense of well-being over the last 12 months has gone beyond a manageable level. In comparison, 35% reported a decrease the previous year.

Aside from the human aspect and the well-being concerns these figures raise, worryingly for employers in the current recruitment and retention crisis is that nearly a third (31%) of staff in large retailers said they want to leave retail as a career. Managers appear to be unhappier than other workers according to the data with more than a quarter (26%) wanting to leave their jobs.

Staff well-being may be high on the agenda for 75% of retail CEOs but the Retail Trust concludes that a focussed well-being strategy should be a priority in the coming months.

Employee peace of mind and perception of safety have a huge part to play in overall well-being, as demonstrated in another landmark study, conducted by personal safety experts, Peoplesafe. Its research confirmed that retail workers are unsettled. 68% of them worry about customer aggression and one in four (27%) worries about their personal safety at work at least once a week. 

Focussing on employee safety may therefore be a, so far, untapped tool that could make significant improvements to the way staff feel about coming into work. Personal safety technology has proven to increase feelings of safety and well-being. For retail employers daunted by the current recruitment crisis, there is a tangible recruitment and retention benefit too.

Peoplesafe has pioneered personal safety alarms that provide a strong level of protection. Where in-store CCTV systems may cost thousands of pounds, some personal safety alarms are now the same price as of a cup of coffee for near instant access to an emergency response and improved peace of mind for both the employee and their manager.

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