Trust Issues: As we go back into lockdown the health of our people has never been more important
Guest Comment: Chris Brook-Carter, CEO, retailTRUST
Two weeks ago, retailTRUST held its very first digital wellbeing conference in support of our #forthefour campaign. Held over three days, brilliant content was delivered by an incredible line up of speakers, including retail and mental health experts, designed to help the sector support its most valuable asset – its people.
Ever since retailTRUST’s founder Thomas Helps held court in a coffee shop in London in 1832 and announced his desire to “promote the happiness and interests” of those working in our trade, retailTRUST has continuously innovated to ensure it cares for, protects and improves the lives of those that make up this most human of industries.
It’s a vision I am pleased to say has gained in traction in recent years as the link between the health of a company’s employees, their happiness and its financial performance have become proven to be intertwined. As the great American businessman, President and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, Doug Conant, once said: “To win the marketplace you must first win the workplace.”
And it’s a vision that I am pleased to see shared by so many in our industry – over 1,200 individuals from more than 230 businesses registered for our wellbeing event – and the generosity of our supporters KPMG, Newton, Openpay, Pinterest, Wagestream and our sleep partner Dreams, will help hundreds of families in retail impacted by this crisis.
This event was conceived as we were emerging from lockdown. The impact of Covid-19, the end of furlough payments and inevitable redundancies on our sector was very real and we were concerned how this would affect the mental health and wellbeing of our colleagues.
As I write this, we have been plunged into lockdown once again, initially for four weeks, potentially for many more, and in the run up to Christmas, retail’s busiest period of the year. The effect this will have on the sector’s fortunes, bricks and mortar footfall, the supply chain as even more purchases shift online, and the pressure on key workers in essential retail working their socks off to keep the nation fed, means the sentiment and the work of the Trust has never been more relevant.
So, I am using this column to stress, once again, that we must act now and reset once and for all the way we look after ourselves and one another. To ignore that call to action is to risk consigning the retail industry to a health crisis that has far reaching ramifications, not only for the lives of the 3m individuals who carve out their livelihoods from this great industry, but also the sector’s ongoing ability to remain at the heart of the UK’s economic, social and cultural future.
Let’s be under no illusions to the challenges that face retail colleagues working through these times. Financial instability, uncertainty, constant change and social disconnection has made everyday life ever more worrying. But let’s also be clear of the huge opportunity for positive action and the momentum that’s building to create generational defining change. The world is waiting for us to respond.
Find out more about the work of the retailTRUST and our #forthefour campaign at https://www.retailtrust.org.uk/forthefour
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