Scotland is quickly approaching the two-week mark since non-essential shops and selected hospitality were given the green light to open their doors to the public again. After almost five months in lockdown and out of the routine, it’s no surprise that there were mutual feelings of uneasiness about the return to work from retail and hospitality industry workers alike.
Most of us spent our time in lockdown with little communication or interaction with people outside of our household. Without these social contacts we may be more exposed to experiencing elevated levels of worry, anxiousness or stress. Before Christmas and the start of the second lockdown, over half (54%) of the UK population felt anxious or worried as a direct result of the pandemic. Having already reopened stores, cafes, restaurants and bars, the process may have been more efficient but nevertheless, still a cause for concern.
“I was a bit nervous about the social aspect of it.”
María Muñoz Ortega works at Circus Café Bistro in central Edinburgh and experienced some reservations about her return.
“With most shops and places being closed, and most of my friends returned to their hometowns, I had a quiet time during lockdown. So that felt like a big contrast with going back to work where you encounter new people every twenty minutes or so,” she explained.
Sharing similar views, a retail worker also based in the city centre said that he definitely felt nervous returning to a position that was largely customer oriented, after seeing very few people outside his immediate family during lockdown. He told Thriving Box Co. that at the independent retail store, his colleagues had acknowledged that the reopening had them all feeling “fairly on edge”.
He said: “We really do not want another lockdown and with the vaccination roll picking up speed, people’s inhibitions and willingness to follow the rules seem to be faltering.
"Although we definitely are not key workers it still feels a bit like we are in the firing line due to the nature of working in retail.”
While both employees were grateful for the furlough scheme that assisted them financially during lockdown, Miss Ortega noted that additional mental health support would have been beneficial.
“The uncertainty factor of not knowing what was going to happen was always around and it’s been stressful to be able to make plans for my future around that.”
She added, “To be fair to them, they didn’t know what was going to happen either, but still, having more communication with our boss about what they were thinking or feeling and what we were thinking or feeling would have been great.”
Some companies were more proactive in communicating with their staff as an employee from large fashion retailer, H&M, told us. She felt grateful to have received furlough throughout both lockdowns.
“I received furlough pay throughout without any complications and a ‘wellbeing’ newsletter every few weeks for recommendations and tips on how to stay active and take care of ourselves throughout lockdown.”
She also mentioned that the uncertainty of the situation still caused her bother, adding:
“I would have appreciated it if the second time returning to work following the December lockdown was with a few days’ notice to prepare before going back. After the first lockdown I was called the day before I went back, and it was the same again the second time round.”
Miss Ortega commented on how, despite her worries, she has found the general public to be very understanding of their situation and has been enjoying her return to work overall.
She said: “It has been great!
“I think we are all quite appreciative about being back at work and feeling some sort of normality. Most customers have been super empathetic towards us and super nice, which has been a great help and contributes greatly to a good atmosphere,” she added.
Prior to then official reopening date, an infographic was shared across social media asking the general public to be mindful of how they treat small business employees during those initial weeks. We’ve shared it here to reinforce the message.
If you are an employer who has just reopened your business, why not treat your employees with a gift box from Thriving Box Co.
✍️ Words by Aisha Fatunmbi-Randall