It’s beginning to look a lot like…COVID.
The 2020 holiday season is going to look a little different this year. Here are some tips on how to survive working retail during the holidays…in the middle of a pandemic.
Whoever said that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year has probably never had the unique opportunity of working retail during the holidays.
And when you throw a global pandemic into the mix? Let’s just say that this year’s holiday season is going to be a little more hectic than usual.
But whether you’re a seasonal employee or a retail pro, there are a few things you can do to stay safe and make your time on the sales floor a little easier.
Here are 10 tips for preventing illness and injury while working retail during the holidays.
1. MAKE A LIST
When you work in retail, work often comes between you and your personal holiday obligations. After all, who can find the time to roast a turkey, wrap presents, or even do their Christmas shopping when they’re working 60-hour weeks?
But just because you’re busy restocking shelves and ringing up customers doesn’t mean you can neglect your own shopping list.
The rest of the year is going to fly by, so get as much of your holiday shopping done as possible before Black Friday and shop online whenever you can. Another quick way to save time and money is to take advantage of your store discount and shop during your breaks.
2. CHECK IT TWICE
This year, those extra seasonal workers may be few and far between, so expect that schedules will be subject to change.
Check the store’s schedule regularly to stay aware of any last-minute changes. The last thing you want is to get on your supervisor’s bad side because you missed a shift.
It will also help to brush up on layaway and return policies and know what the “it” items are so you can advise customers.
3. DON’T DRIVE YOURSELF CRAZY
It seems like every place you go is busier during the holidays, and that includes roads.
Stay one step ahead of rush hour by leaving for work a little earlier than you normally would. When traffic gets intense, you won’t have to worry about being late.
Once you get to the store, don’t be surprised if your usual parking spot has been taken by a shopper. Have a discussion with your manager about which parking spots are off-limits and which are up for grabs.
4. DRESS FOR SUCCESS
Save the stilettos and ugly Christmas sweaters for after-hours; you’ll be on your feet for 12 hours and it’s 85 degrees outside!
Making sure that you’re comfortable will go a long way toward making your next shift bearable. Stick with a good set of walking shoes and clothes you can move around in (Santa hat is optional).
5. PROTECT YOURSELF
While protecting your sanity might seem like the most pressing need, don’t forget to protect your health.
Cold weather and crowds increase the risk of another threat: germs. And a global pandemic adds an extra layer of concern. Luckily, public health officials have identified measures that you can take to prevent the spread of pathogens, such as those that cause COVID-19.
Your first layer of protection? Wear a mask and wear it properly. Yes, they’re uncomfortable, but masks have been proven to reduce the risk of viral transmission by trapping respiratory droplets so they don’t spread to others.
Masks should be worn over your mouth and nose and create a “seal” so that no air escapes. If worn correctly, it should move in and out when you breathe. Enlist your store manager to support you in making sure that other employees and customers are wearing their masks properly.
Surgical and cloth masks are both fine, but shy away from versions with valves. They may be more comfortable, but if air can escape from your mouth, so can germs.
With so many hands touching the merchandise, clean hands are extremely important.
The CDC recommends that you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds, “especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.” If you can’t get to a sink, keep some hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) or sanitizing wipes nearby and use them often (it might help to have some lotion as well, since alcohol is very drying).
Of course, the most effective way to prevent the spread of illness is to encourage sick employees to stay home—even if they “really need” the money and you “really need” the help.
This is one instance when sharing isn’t caring.
6. SLOW AND STEADY
Christmastime is also workers’ comp season, as many retail employees try to keep up with the holiday rush. But hurrying through your job duties is a good way to make mistakes and get yourself injured.
Some common injuries for retail workers are:
- Slip & fall incidents from wet floors,
- Muscle strains from lifting heavy boxes,
- Fractures from falling objects
- Cuts from opening boxes
Management should remind employees of safety hazards around the store as well as ways to prevent workplace injuries.
7. BROWN BAG IT
No, not your presents…your lunch!
Lines at the food court and drive-thru are going to be longer when everyone is out doing their holiday shopping, so bring your own lunch to work.
Instead of spending your lunch hour braving traffic, you’ll have time to relax. (Not to think of all the money you’ll save!)
8. SELF CARE
You can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure you set aside time for some self care throughout your day. This can be as simple as drinking some water or escaping to the stock room for a few minutes to clear your head.
Once your shift ends, try one (or more!) of these suggestions to create a mini vacation in the midst of the holiday chaos:
- Sip on a hot drink, like cocoa, tea, or a latte.
- Light a fire (or hit up Netflix for a digital version).
- Listen to music.
- Get a facial or pedicure.
- Take a bath or soak in a hot tub.
- Read the latest bestseller.
- Try an adult coloring book.
- Go for a walk or bike ride.
Or just binge some Netflix shows and pass out on the couch! Self care looks different for everybody.
9. TAKE THE SHORTCUT
If you’re working retail during the holidays, there won’t be a lot of time leftover for anything else. But if you don’t have anyone to pick up the slack for you, don’t feel bad about taking a shortcut here and there.
Make things easy on yourself by putting presents in gift bags instead of wrapping paper. Buy a pre-made holiday meal from the grocery store or a local restaurant instead of cooking it from scratch.
Christmas isn’t a competitive sport!
10. BE A GRINCH
Hearing those Christmas songs play non-stop is enough to make even Santa go a little batty, so it’s okay to take a break from Christmas every once in a while.
Swap out the Christmas music for some classic rock, turn off the Hallmark Channel and watch an action-packed superhero movie, or even plan an “anti-Christmas party” (over Zoom, of course!) with some other retail employees.
It might also help to think beyond the holidays for a while. Plan a trip for next summer or think about how you’re going to spend all that extra holiday cash!
BONUS TIP: ENJOY THE SEASON!
Don’t let the stress of working retail during the holidays ruin your holiday spirit!
For every grumpy customer you deal with, there are plenty more happy ones who are ready to spread some holiday cheer! Look for the good in each day and look for ways to pay it forward.
If you have to work on Christmas Day, find some way of making it special for you. Maybe choose a different day to celebrate the holiday with family and friends or plan something fun and festive with your coworkers.
Working retail during the holidays may not be your ideal way to spend the season, but there are definitely ways to survive it.
Long hours and stress create the perfect conditions for a workplace injury, so plan ahead, stay calm, and take care of yourself as best you can until January.
But if you do get injured at work this winter, file a workers’ comp claim as soon as possible! You have a limited amount of time to file a workers’ compensation claim and this time passes very quickly, especially during the holidays.
Just like working retail during the holidays, your workers’ comp case can be overwhelming. But at The Law Office of Brian D. Tadros, our goal is to give you the advice and guidance you need to make informed decisions that are in your best interest. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Happy Holidays from our family to yours!
This article was originally published in November of 2019 (before COVID-19 was on anyone’s radar). It has been updated to include new information related to the coronavirus pandemic.