Helping Associates Deal with Workplace Stress

March 31, 2020

By Paul Adams

Adams & Associates

The outbreak of Coronavirus disease [COVID-19] may be stressful for many, especially for those who must work frequently in the public arena.  Fear and anxiety about a major disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.

Everyone reacts differently to this kind of situation.  How a person responds can depend upon our individual backgrounds, other people and what is taking place in the community during the disease.

The National Grocers Association recognizes that the individuals who work daily in the retail food stores we support are often having to cope with a stressful situation which is new to all of us.

Even though there is no single simple response to issues of fear, anxiety and stress there are some techniques that have been proven to alleviate and calm some of the emotions caused by the disease.

An excellent starting place is for store leadership to recognize that what members of their store teams are experiencing is natural and to be expected.  Communication, then, is most important.  Additional suggestions to help frontline associates include:

  • Remind everyone that they are there to look after each other and to serve customers
  • Allow for frequent breaks to not only get off the frontline for a little bit, but also to use the facilities to wash their hands
  • If a teammate is obviously distressed and anxious store leadership must deal directly with it or work to solve it through the Human Resource Department or designated professional services

Certainly, during the daily store or departmental huddles talk about what’s happening and develop tips or ways to approach the issue.  The Center for Disease Control recommends talking about the issue and not letting it fester.  Knowledge is power and the more members of the store team know and understand what is taking place can lead to a calmer working environment.

There are specific actions which can be taken in the store to increase the awareness of safety in the workplace:

  • Assure that sanitation practices around the entire store are increased and conducted frequently and this includes following personal cleanliness guidelines
  • Perhaps utilizing protective plexiglass guards at the individual checkout stations
  • Follow public health officials recommendation for personal protective equipment

Outside the workplace there are recommendations regarding personal actions to reduce levels of stress and anxiety when not at work.  They include:

  • Daily exercising, walking or running
  • Reading a book
  • Watching movies made available for the home
  • Cleaning-up around the house or even starting a home improvement project
  • Cooking a recipe, you’ve been thinking about but have not had the time
  • Try disconnecting and limiting your use of social media
  • Playing board games with your family
  • As the weather gets warmer, working in the yard or garden

Independent retailers are keenly aware of the current difficult work situation and several have begun to reward their team members with various kinds of appreciation efforts.  These extra efforts are a good example of business owners demonstrating to their team members how important they are and how much their services are valued.  This kind of recognition does not alleviate the stressful work environment, but it does make it easier to cope with and more acceptable.  Our front-line folks in food stores throughout the country deserve our sincere thanks for all they are doing to keep America fed in a time of unprecedented crisis.