Ho, Ho, How to Lower Retail Workers' Stress Levels

NIOSH recommends managers and employees work together to identify critical stress-related problems and design reasonable solutions to address them. And its online resources can help retail employers and workers alike.

Retail workers' health and safety is on the minds of some of NIOSH's best minds, and four of them have collaborated on a NIOSH Science Blog post this month to remind employers about holiday season stress among these employees. The authors -- Donna Pfirman, NIOSH co-assistant coordinator for the Wholesale and Retail Trade Sector program; Jessica M.K. Streit, Ph.D., MS, co-assistant coordinator for the Healthy Work Design and Well-being Cross-Sector program; Seleen Collins, a technical writer-editor in the NIOSH Education and Information Division; and Vern Putz Anderson, Ph.D., CPE, recently retired as NIOSH coordinator for the Wholesale and Retail Trade Sector program -- cite an October 2018 Gallup poll finding that 87 percent of Americans plan to shop and spend money on the 2018 holidays and a National Retail Federation estimates that retail sales in November and December 2018 will total as much as $720.89 billion, 4.8 percent more than in 2017.

Retailers are expected to hire as many as 650,000 seasonal workers in order to accommodate the increased consumer traffic, joining the 4.6 million U.S. workers currently employed in retail sales, according to BLS.

The blog post points out that these working conditions may influence employees' job-related stress levels:

  • Job and task design: Heavy workloads, a hectic work pace, insufficient rest breaks, long work hours, and irregular work shifts can cause workers to feel out of control and place them at increased risk for stress.
  • Management style: Poor communication and a lack of family-friendly policies and practices can be significant stressors.
  • Interpersonal relationships: When co-workers and supervisors aren't supportive or helpful, retail employees' stress levels can rise.
  • Work roles: Confusion about responsibilities or feeling like there's too much to do can make work more stressful for retail employees.
  • Environmental conditions: Large crowds and noise from sources such as store music, announcements, and shoppers can make the workplace feel unpleasant and raise employees' stress levels.

The post says NIOSH recommends managers and employees work together to identify critical stress-related problems and design reasonable solutions to address them. And its online resources can help retail employers and workers alike.

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