Maintaining social distancing inside retail stores during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a daily source of contention between retail workers and customers.
Yet this distance is more than a safety regulation to front-line retail workers. Inside the store, this two-metre space has become a sign of respect and an acknowledgement of their humanity.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2020, and as part of an ongoing research, we’ve been interviewing retail workers and customers in North America, asking them about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected retail stores, employees and customers.
One common story we kept hearing was how many customers disregard social distancing when in the vicinity of store employees. Here are some comments from retail workers:
A holiday gesture
While many of the interviewed retail workers expressed gratitude for being able to continue working when so many are out of work, they highlighted the increased stress in their work lives.One of those major stressors is maintaining social distance with their customers during working hours. They also expressed concern about the limited compassion being shown by some of the customers.
In the midst of the holiday shopping season, when many shoppers are flocking to shopping malls outside of lockdown zones, we need to keep in mind that retail workers have all the same concerns about contracting COVID-19 as we do.
So whenever you enter a store, whether it’s a big box chain like Costco or Walmart or a small independent business, remember to “keep your distance.” It’s an important show of respect and compassion for the jobs retail workers do and the risks they face every day.