TRUST ISSUES: There’s a wellbeing crisis in retail. This is what employers can do to help their staff through it
Chris Brook Carter, chief-executive of the Retail Trust
The Retail Trust’s latest Health of Retail report is not easy reading for anyone working in retail.
Following another unsettling year for the industry, we wanted to understand more about the challenges facing retail workers and show what the Retail Trust and their employers could do to help. And our research among over 1,500 retail workers found concerns around finances, rising levels of customer abuse and deteriorating mental health as we exit the pandemic is causing a wellbeing crisis, with over-burdened line-managers in need of support to help their team through this.
Eight out of 10 respondents told us they have experienced a decline in their mental health in the last year and over half of line-managers said their teams have reported mental health issues they felt ill-equipped to deal with. The situation is so acute that one in five now plan to leave the industry, rising to one in three working for larger retailers and a quarter of retail managers.
Younger retail workers aged 16 to 29 were found to be the unhappiest, according to further data released at last month’s Retail Week Live when we partnered with data scientists at Microsoft to ‘hack’ the happiness of the industry, and this could lead to an exodus of talent as the next generation of shop managers and head office staff desert the sector.
The turmoil of the last two years clearly poses a serious long-term challenge when it comes to attracting and retaining staff and this raises serious questions about the future of the sector as a whole. And while we know the retail sector is committed to improving workplace wellbeing, there’s a worrying gap between how retailers think their employees are feeling and the reality, with half of the retail leaders we interviewed for the report believing the wellbeing of employees had improved over the last year. Nearly a third said they believed it had stayed the same.
A focus on employee wellbeing needs to be one of the long-term, positive consequences of the pandemic. Our report outlines a number of measures that we recommend retailers embed into their wellbeing strategies, including the steps they can take to help colleagues through the cost of living crisis and tackle the increase in abuse and violence facing shop workers. We also urge employers to provide more support to over-burdened line managers to deal with the rise in mental health issues among their teams.
The health, happiness and hope of our people is absolutely paramount if we want to see UK retail evolve, survive and thrive and the companies that come out stronger will be those with a real sense of purpose and desire to put their people first.
Download the Retail Trust’s Health of Retail report here. You can also call our 24-hour helpline on 0808 801 0808 to speak to one of our trained advisors for in the moment support, or visit retailtrust.org.uk.
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