Flexible and Remote Work Best Practices for Independent Grocery: Webinar Key Takeaways

August 8, 2022

By Jim Dudlicek / NGA Director, Communications and External Affairs

While some companies offered flexible working arrangements before the pandemic, many were forced into a remote workforce almost overnight.

While managing remote employees may be intimidating at first, many retailers and wholesalers are now reaping the benefits of workplace flexibility, including greater employee satisfaction, retention and productivity.

In a recent webinar hosted by the NGA Foundation, a panel of grocery industry experts shared their best practices for remote and flexible work procedures.

Moderated by Nick Nickitas, founder and CEO of e-commerce solution provider Rosie, the discussion included Jane Hill, talent management team leader for Salt Lake City-based Associated Food Stores (AFS); and Jodi Drake, e-commerce leader for Davis Food & Drug, which operated three stores in Utah.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

The customer is always right, but the employee comes first. Hill said it was important to respect how everyone was personally responding to the pandemic in its early days: “We let them know they were our foremost concern.” Drake said David had to reassess the way it hires employees, particularly because of the national labor shortage – for example, offering split shifts for workers with different needs and cross-training team members “to fit people where they need to go.”

Let “work” work for you. Businesses should be less concerned about how many hours a day employees work and more about how much work is getting done, Drake asserted. Hill added: “Not everyone wants to work 40 hours – people want a better work-life balance.” To that end, AFS redesigned its warehouse shifts for 32 to 36 hours, resulting in higher worker retention and satisfaction.

When employees are happy on the job, it shows in their work and their engagement with customers. That extends to their life outside of work. “We try to honor every request for time off, because if you don’t, they’re probably just going to call out and you’re stuck having to fill a shift,” Drake said.

Stay connected. Nickitas noted that it can be a challenge to maintain your workplace culture with a remote workforce, who may miss out on personal interactions with co-workers and other common office experiences. Rosie sends “care packages” of snacks and swag, “whatever you can do to let them know you understand,” Nickitas says. Communication is paramount – be responsive, give timely feedback. “Tactics will be different for everyone, but personal connection needs to be top of mind,” Hill said.

Use being remote to best advantage. Drake works remotely from her home that’s two time zones away from her employer, which puts her deadlines at odds with regular working hours. So, she started completing tasks early, giving her team an edge on key projects.

Click here to watch a recording of this webinar.