Minding Behavioral Health Needs in the Retail Industry
August 4, 2020
By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP
Associate Medical Director
Retail has always been an industry marked by change. The disruption of COVID-19, however, has had an unquestioningly destabilizing impact- from management down to the front line workers. Operations have needed to be reworked due to viral exposure, customer changes, and the impact of furloughs, layoffs, and closures. Societally, the status of retail workers shifted, as retail workers became essential to the continuation of life, and did so in spite of the increased risk to personal health.
Now, as reopening has occurred with force in most areas of the country, challenges remain. Viral exposure risk is still prevalent, as more of the public are out and about. Furthermore, customer refusal to wear PPE or follow the retailers’ or government’s social distancing regulations causes two dynamics. Firstly, it increases the risk of illness; and secondly, it increases conflict and increases tension. As a result, retail managers and employees are faced with de-escalating conflict and potentially managing aggression—not something that is listed in their job description.
Working in retail means an inability to work from home. In many parts of the country, learning will be done virtually, either in part or in full. This means that employees with children are now faced with the added responsibility of being part-time educators. On top of this, there is the constant and realistic fear of layoffs, closures or unpaid time off, adding financial stress.
During this time of disruption and change, the behavioral health of your leaders, managers, and employees deserves attention. We need staff to be as productive and healthy as possible to keep our retail operations moving forward.
- Supportive services are ones that should be provided and available to all employees. These might include resources for finding a mental health provider, but may also include some more unique options like targeted telephonic outreach or use of a customized phone app. Such unique solutions are a great fit for the unique nature of work in 2020.
- If an employee is displaying concerning behavior, or a marked decrease in workplace performance that you believe may be due to a mental health condition, you should consider having a Fitness for Duty assessment plan in place. Or, if there is concern about a potential for violence, a Fitness for Duty with Violence Screen evaluation is an option as well.
R3c can help with these, and many other challenges related to the health of your workforce. We are well versed in the unique challenges faced by the retail industry. From senior leadership to front line workers, our behavioral health expertise can be a real asset as you navigate the current pandemic.
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