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Special Series: Suggestions for Food Store Associates to Respond to the COVID-19 Pandemic

This post continues our series of suggestions to help all food retailers navigate the uncertainties and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. We see this as a community response and Logile’s experienced retail practitioners and consultants have compiled practical suggestions for retailers to consider as they respond to the unique situations of their stores and community. We started with 12 suggestions focused on retail food companies at the corporate level. Our last post centered on 12 suggestions for food stores. In this post, we address suggestions for retail food store associates.

As containment efforts increase across the world, we see the incredible resilience and adaptability of the food supply chain. The efforts of dedicated individuals make this possible, especially those on the front lines in retail food stores. Their efforts are critical to the families and communities you. Perhaps this crisis will bring about a deepened appreciation for the professionalism of associates in these roles as well as all those who maintain the efficiency, reliability and safety of the food supply chain, from the field to the store floor.

Once again, we recommend that you regularly check and follow all guidelines and requirements as communicated by the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and applicable national, federal, state and local authorities. These guidelines and requirements may change, so stay well connected with these sources. Nothing we suggest should alter your full consideration of and compliance with WHO, CDC, national, federal, state or local directives. 

As one community, we as retail software solution vendors are dedicated to supporting the operation of responsive, safe and efficient food retail stores in all formats and communities. We hope this information proves useful for those looking for actionable items and insights to support the retail store associates on the front line of keeping the food chain open.

Ideas for food store associates to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

#1. Do not work if you are sick. Nothing is more important in preventing the spread of illness than avoiding public places, including the workplace, if you are showing symptoms or are in quarantine. If you are sick, allow yourself to heal. Check with your company’s Human Resource department if they have not recently updated you as to sick leave and attendance policies. Some companies are recognizing the special needs of associates who are sick or unable to work due to childcare or new family obligations. Government and charitable programs are also being put into place that may offer additional support. Watch for company communications regarding these programs and how to access them or inquire about these programs through your company’s Human Resource channels. If you become aware of such programs in your local community, share them with your Human Resource department, but do your best to make sure it is factual. Your Human Resource department can help vet it.

#2. Follow all guidelines for gloves, handwashing, cleaning and sanitation as directed by your company and management. Be sure to observe all cleaning and sanitation practices as directed by your company and management. Stay aware of special policies and procedures that may be implemented due to the current crisis. If you have not received updated guidance, ask. Following these guidelines is critical to avoid spread of the virus and to instill customer confidence in your company’s commitment to safeguard the food it sells. Shoppers are looking to you to provide wholesome and safe food for their families.

#3. Be patient with customers. These are stressful times for everyone and not all customers will handle it well. Shortages on some items, and long lines from surges in buying, will increase frustration and test the patience of you, your co-workers and your customers. Empathize with their frustration and remain courteous and helpful in your work.

#4. Take care of yourself and your health. Maintaining your health at home and at work is critical for you to be able to perform your job and take care of your family. Do what you can to manage stress, eat well, exercise and get appropriate sleep. Also, consider shopping after your shift to minimize additional trips for shopping.

#5. Keep sanitation supplies available. Provide the supplies as directed by your retail organization and store management. Many companies are making wipes, hand sanitizer stations and touch-free trash receptacles more available right now. Expect that wipes, sanitizing solutions, hand sanitizers and gloves will be needed in greater quantities. Keep management aware if supplies are running low.

#6. Maintain good cleanliness and sanitation in your work area while you work. In addition to attending to personal hygiene with handwashing and sanitation, be particularly mindful of the cleanliness and sanitation of your work areas. Customers are noticing these details, now more than ever. Your efforts will promote greater customer confidence and appreciation for your store and your brand as they decide where to make their next purchases.

#7. Stay informed about policy and procedure changes as they occur. Make a special effort to stay alert to changes in policy or announcements from your store’s leadership. Most businesses will provide informative posts in a centralized area, possibly your break room. Take the time to read and understand the information conveyed so you can fully comply with it and be a leader to others.

#8. Answer customer questions honestly with the information provided by your company and your managers. Customers will have many questions about the virus, about the safety of the products you are selling, when out-of-stock products will be replenished, etc. Answer these questions to the best of your ability using the information provided to you by your retail organization and management team. Avoid elaboration or speculation. Panic occurs in the absence of factual information.

#9. Thank customers for their patience. Courtesy is a hallmark of professional retail service. A simple thank you for your patience goes a long way to letting customers know you appreciate their patronage.

#10. If you can, be flexible to take additional shifts which may include working in areas you don’t normally work in. As the virus spreads, some of your store colleagues may be unable to work. Others may be unavailable during their usual times due to childcare issues resulting from school closures. With increased demand from customers, your store will need help to both serve customers and restock the store. Be flexible. Let managers know if you are available to take additional shifts or willing to learn and perform new roles.

#11. Keep your managers informed about issues of around your availability so the store can schedule effectively. If your company uses an Employee Self-Service portal to manage availability for scheduling, be sure to update your availability in that system. If not, keep managers informed directly of your availability and your willingness to work additional hours and perform other duties to support the store during this crisis.

#12. Take pride in the work you are doing to support your store and your community. As a retail food store associate, you are part of an enormous effort to maintain the food supply chain for your community and the families you serve. Your work and professionalism are something to take pride in.

We hope this blog series has offered something for the retail community to navigate through the present circumstances. We know many retail organizations have already taken some of these steps and others may be considering them. We hope all stores address this crisis in a way that supports their commitments to their communities, and we salute the men and women in the stores who will make that effort possible.

Our next post will reflect on the long-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food safety imperatives.

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