Trust issues: amidst the cost-of-living crisis, we need to really listen to our staff to understand how we can help
By Chris Brook Carter, chief executive of the Retail Trust.
One of the biggest takeouts from the Retail Trust’s latest report into the health and wellbeing of the retail workforce is the extent to which it is facing an uphill battle in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.
Over half of the 1,500 retail employees we surveyed for our now annual health of retail report said that financial pressures are impacting their wellbeing, around one in five are now struggling to make ends meet, and a further 80% have noted an overall decline in mental health in the last year.
As the UK’s largest non-public sector employer and with many people earning at the lower end of the wage spectrum, we know our industry is particularly vulnerable to the ongoing rising cost of living. And our report also showed that rising levels of public abuse and assaults on retail workers is compounding the situation and further damaging mental wellbeing.
Stories that we collected from household name retailers for the report reflect a distressing and alarming picture, with some reporting increased staff theft due to the financial strain, more instances of verbal, physical, and sexual assault, a rise in absences due to mental health struggles, and even a growing number of suicidal employees. At the same time, while many retailers are implementing measures like wage increases and other forms of financial assistance, they are also struggling to do so within already tight margins and at the rate at which inflation has been rising.
Signs of progress are evident since our last health of retail report was published in 2022, especially in the increasing openness surrounding mental health, with more people now seeking support from their employer than ever before. Retailers clearly understand more than ever the need to create more compassionate and supportive working environments but in doing so, it is important their managers get the training they need to support their teams’ wellbeing.
They also need to raise awareness of where else people can get help and provide more of the tools we need to take charge of our own health and wellbeing. Above all, we all need to be prepared to listen and understand what is at risk of damaging staff wellbeing in order to respond in the best possible way. The employers who are truly invested in their people understand the power of evidence-based actionable insight to make sure their wellbeing strategies are right for their businesses.
The Retail Trust’s new ‘better you’ assessment is one way we’re helping the retailers we work with, alongside more training and wellbeing resources, as it provides personalised, clinically-designed advice and programmes for colleagues alongside new data so that employers can really understand how to support their teams. It also gives employers access to comparative data across the retail industry and the wider business landscape to help them benchmark their progress.
While the mindset shift around workplace wellbeing may be shifting, the overall findings of our report make us very aware that our mission is not over. There are still thousands of retail workers in the UK who continue to face ongoing uncertainty, stress and risk of burnout and just aren’t receiving the support they need.
If you are an employer at the very start on your own wellbeing journey, it is important to know that this journey starts with understanding. Download the Retail Trust’s health of retail report to gain insight into the current state of retail wellbeing and get in touch with us if you think we can help.
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