Posted on 20 February, 2019  |  4 mins

Many of the rules for creating a good balance between our work and personal lives (flexible start times, early finishes, working from home) simply don’t apply to traditional retail. You can’t man the till and restock shelves from home, nor can you stay closed until your staff turn up. So, how do you create work/life balance in retail?

It’s an important issue to tackle. Our research shows that when retailers are asked what they wish was easier in their business, 63% say "balancing work and home life". 

And that extends to the work/life balance of your retail staff, too. Studies show that loyal workers—those who intend to stay with their employer for at least the next two years—overwhelmingly have the support of their employer to create a healthy work/life balance. 1

But retail workers are the least satisfied when it comes to their jobs. Some 41% say they dread going in to work.

Meanwhile, three-quarters of those who intend to leave their jobs say their employers are not supportive of work/life balance.

Long story short, if you want engaged staff who enjoy their jobs, stick around and represent your business in the best possible light, you’ll need to help them with their work/life balance. Contrary to what you might believe, it’s not impossible in the unique retail environment. Here are some ways to do it right.

1. Schedule and stick to working hours

Sure, you need to have your staff in to open up the shop—you can’t afford to introduce flexible opening times to suit your staff and confuse your customers.

But when your employees know in advance what time they start and when they’ll finish work, it makes it easier for them to plan their personal lives around work.

Currently, this isn’t the case. A third of retail workers say they work more than their contracted hours “most or nearly all of the time”. 1

All this being said, things don’t always go to plan, so it pays to have some flexibility in there too. Consider using employee management tools like Deputy to help. They allow you to set and share schedules, manage attendance, replace and swap shifts on the fly, and communicate with your team so everyone knows where they’re at.

And when people know where they're at professionally, they can plan their personal lives better around it.

2. Manage the workaholics—including yourself

Workaholics are more at risk of feeling the damages of an unbalanced life. Almost one in three retail workers—and particularly owners—commonly work more than 45 hours a working week. And some find themselves working in excess of 60 hours (that’s more than 12 hours a day!). 1

Interestingly, these people have some typical characteristics that make it hard for them to switch off from work:

  • Around 50% of them always check their emails at weekend (compared to 17% in general)
  • One-quarter say they “always” feel overwhelmed (compared to an average 6%)
  • More than 20% feel stressed or emotional because of work (opposed to 6% average).

With a higher chance of burnout, it pays to learn more about the working habits of these individuals to help them manage their time.

For instance, one interesting characteristic of workaholics is that 25% of them commute for more than two hours a day to get into work, which could be an opportunity to work flexibly—doing their email admin on the train or bus instead of at home.

Ultimately, though, it depends what works for the individual—which is an opportunity to work with them closely on finding their own work/life balance opportunities.

As a business-owner, you should absolutely apply the same thinking to your own work life. Find ways to make better use of your time so you can more easily separate work from the rest of your life.

Read more about achieving your own work/life balance as an entrepreneur on the 9 Spokes blog.

How to achieve work/life balance in retail and as an entrepreneur | 9 Spokes

3. Bring back a feel-good factor

Work/life balance relies on the notion that if your work life is heavy, you'll need more personal time as a counterweight. But if your work life is actually more enjoyable...?

If you can find a way to make your staff more enthusiastic about coming into work, to the point where they even enjoy it, work doesn’t entirely feel like work.

What makes people look forward to going into work? Research 1 shows the following helps:

  • Being acknowledged for a job well done
  • Having a manager that helps them solve work problems
  • Trusting the people in their team and being trusted
  • Having opportunities for career progression.

Importantly, there doesn’t appear to be too much of a correlation between workplace enjoyment and wages, giving retailers a chance to engage even with lower-wage employees.

4. Automation, automation, automation

While it’s not always so simple to just hire more people when the workload builds up, you can spend a small amount of time automating some of the more mundane tasks your people tend to do, and taking them off your employees' plates.

Take customer emails, for example. You can use apps like Mailchimp to set up automated emails to your customers for certain events—like welcome emails when they sign up, birthday offers once a year, or reminders when they leave items in their online shopping carts.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Retail software of all shapes and sizes can be your extra employees when you need all hands at the pumps (and even when you don’t).

Stock taking, for instance, can take dozens of staff hours every few months. But tools like TradeGecko constantly keep track of what’s in stock. You can then automatically sync your orders with inventory and accounts, so stock-taking doesn’t take an entire evening, but maybe even mere minutes.

And, ultimately, it helps your employees, too, cutting down on late-night stock takes and admin tasks that your software can do instead—regularly and reliably.

5. Ask

Our last tip is the simplest of all: ask your employees how you can reasonably make their work/life balance better.

We’ve mentioned that retail employees are crying out for a manager who helps them solve problems. You can’t do that if you don’t know what their problems are.

So, quite simply, ask. You might not be able to grant all their wishes, but you’ll surely be in a better position to solve some of their issues by knowing what they are.

Know your business better with 9 Spokes

With your free 9 Spokes dashboard, you can see visualised data from across your whole business. Just sign up, connect apps like QuickBooks, Facebook, Shopify, TradeGecko, Mailchimp and dozens of others, and start seeing your business more clearly.

With your business apps and 9 Spokes, you can manage your business on the go, automate tasks, manage your workaholics and do much more to help you and your staff find that elusive work/life balance.

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