Retail Employee Burnout

How to Beat the Retail Burnout

18 August 2022

Employee experience

Retail employee burnout

Retail Burnout.

Definition: A state of physical and emotional exhaustion due to being consistently overloaded in a retail workplace.

Does this sound like your store teams right now?

It’s hard to imagine otherwise. A 2022 survey uncovered that 72% feel worn out at the end of their shift to the point that they do not enjoy their time away from work at least once a week.

Retail Burnout Statistics

In addition to this, since the start of the pandemic:

  • A third of frontline employees say that work has become even more demanding
  • A further third say interactions with customers have worsened
  • More than half describe their job as understaffed

This post explores the causes and cures of employee burnout in retail including tangible strategies to prevent it.

 

The effects of Retail Burnout

Don’t underestimate burnout. It’s not simply a feeling of tiredness or stress that can be resolved with a holiday or a salary bonus.

Burned-out employees feel a loss of meaning in their work, struggle to communicate effectively, experience diminished motivation, lowered immunity to illness, difficulty concentrating, and a sense of hopelessness.

In an Employee Burnout study, Gallup found that burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 160% more likely to be actively seeking a different job.

Ultimately, burned-out employees are more likely to quit, which (in a heavily competitive hiring market) means a loss of knowledge and skills on the shop floor and an even bigger workload for those who choose to stay. 

 

What are the roots of Retail Burnout?

We all know that burnout is common in the era of ‘hustle culture’ and inflation, where long hours are expected, the cost of living is soaring, and work seeps into our free time. 

But retail employees have additional stressors that can rapidly propel them towards a burned-out state. These include:

  • Antisocial working hours and inconsistent schedules, which make it difficult for employees to plan their social lives. 
  • The emotional labor of a customer-facing role, constantly being around people and handling challenging customers. All of which lead to feeling emotionally exhausted.
  • Increased responsibilities as a result of the retail worker shortage and new processes like in-store fulfillment.
  • An isolated working environment in which they may never meet many of their colleagues or higher-ups due to being spread across different locations.

The good news: employers and managers can make a significant contribution to preventing retail burnout.

The not so good news: only 45% of workers agree that management cares about their mental health.

Although their working conditions have worsened since the onset of the pandemic, only 19% of workers say their employers have taken new initiatives to offer mental wellness support/activities. 

These types of initiatives may have previously seemed like a nice-to-have, but failing to invest in frontline employee wellbeing costs retailers far more in the long run. Hiring new staff is far more costly than retaining existing team members, and a Workplace Burnout Survey by Deloitte found that 57% of workers are considering quitting to find a role that better supports their wellbeing.

 

Strategies for preventing employee burnout in Retail

So what action can retail leaders take?

Typical wellness initiatives like work from home days or team lunches don’t work for frontline retail employees. Retailers need burnout prevention strategies that fit the reality of the frontline retail workplace. 

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Enforce and respect work/life boundaries 

Any workplace applications or tools used on a personal device should have a settings option to turn off notifications. Encourage employees to do this outside of working hours.

Put a consistent rota in place so that employees are able to plan their social and family lives accordingly, but also simplify the process for shift swaps and covering shifts so that employees don’t need to go through management in order to do this. This combination of reliability and flexibility is the best way to help employees balance work and life.

If a store is struggling with understaffing due to the retail worker shortage, reduce opening hours rather than overloading teams to the extent that they burn out. Monitor how many hours employees are working, make sure they take breaks, and check in on those who work a lot of overtime.

  • Streamline tasks

Store teams should not bear the burden of deciphering task instructions or debating which tasks are their biggest priority. Relieving them of these stressors reduces the risk of burnout and frees up time for more fulfilling tasks, like helping customers.

Ask your store teams which tasks or processes they feel are unnecessarily time-consuming and could be simplified or automated. For tasks where this is not possible, make priorities clear, set realistic deadlines, and ask for feedback on the clarity of task instructions.

To discover how to choose the right tool to best help your organization to streamline tasks, read this guide: The Complete Guide to Choosing Retail Task Management Software.

  • Reduce the noise

Too often, store teams are overwhelmed with information that’s not relevant to their roles or have to waste time searching for the right information across multiple communication channels. This leads to feeling stressed and overwhelmed with information, a typical trigger for anxiety.

Declutter and streamline store teams’ working day by centralizing all communication in one place and ensuring that employees are only receiving information that is relevant to their roles.

  • Give actionable feedback

Burnout can also be caused by a feeling of stagnation and uncertainty around whether or not work meets expected standards.

Providing specific, real-time feedback on task completion means employees can always be confident that they have completed their work correctly and understand how they can improve. 

Ensure that you use a communication platform that allows 2-way communication between store teams and HQ, so that store employees can easily ask for clarification or help in order to avoid confusion and stress.

  • Create a connected community

Having friends at work makes a huge difference to well-being in the workplace.

A great way to encourage this is using a communication platform that facilitates peer-to-peer communication so store employees can share knowledge and best practices to help each other with work. 

It’s important to choose a communication tool that enables employees to create their own social community channels. When employees are spread across a range of store locations, this capability allows them to digitally connect and form networks with coworkers who have shared experiences or interests.

To cultivate a sense of belonging, hold team-building activities, celebrate birthdays and ensure that employees know that the door is always open for those who need to talk. This is how your employees will truly begin to feel like part of a community.

Find out how internationally successful retailer GANT connects its employees across borders in a globally connected community in this case study!

  • Revamp Recognition

Burnout often stems from feeling a lack of purpose or meaning in work. Workers who report having a better understanding of their role in supporting the wider organization are more satisfied in their roles overall.

Effective recognition connects individual achievements to their impact on the wider organization. Share KPIs, sales data, and positive customer reviews with store teams to show them exactly how the work they do every day contributes to the success of the business.

Encourage store and area managers to regularly write personalized thank you notes to their teams after a particularly busy shift or intense day. Other incentives like gift cards or treats are also great, but the most important part of recognition is to create a sense of contributing towards a shared, meaningful goal.

Want to learn more about how to create the retail employee experience your store teams deserve? We surveyed 1,400 frontline workers to discover what they want from their employers in 2022. Get your free copy of the survey report to learn top strategies for making retail careers attractive again! 🚀

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