March 31, 2023
Burnout in retail comes swiftly and can knock you on your face.
You think you’re doing fine. You scheduled yourself for a seven-day stretch because you’re taking a long weekend later, but you get to day four, and it hits you. No, you don’t have one day left before you get a day off. You have three more days of work before you get a day off.
As you stride into the store, you keep your sunglasses on. You greet your team, but it feels disingenuous. You pray a customer won’t approach you until you’ve put your stuff away. That cold brew you bought on the way here won’t be enough, but you drink it as fast as possible before hitting the floor.
“Hi-yeeeeee,” shouts your Co-Manager, Tasha.
“Hey Tasha.” You dig the words out from the pit of your stomach because you know you have to. “What’s up today?” You’re giving total Eeyore vibes.
“You okay, boss lady?” She asks. You hate it when she calls you that; that’s why she does it. She thinks she’s hilarious. She is most days.
“I’m on day four of seven,” you tell her.
“Ohhhhh. Are you a little crispy? French-fried, perhaps? That’s okay, I got you. I went to bed early last night, so you let me know what you need today.”
A bashful smile crosses half of your mouth as your eyes hit the floor. She knows you too well.
“Thanks, Tasha.” You mean it – sincerely. But if you show any more emotion, you may burst into tears, and you have three more days of work to get through. “Let’s do this thing.”
Retail teams are some of the grittiest out there. Dogged determination to get the job done and a work ethic that drives them to show up at crazy hours are the norms. While the work ethic is admirable, burnout can sneak up quickly.
Try these simple strategies to combat burnout.
No, you won’t be able to work the same schedule every week of the year. We don’t have that luxury in retail; however, if you have a baseline, it will help.
Flex it to the business’s needs and return to your baseline schedule as soon as possible. When I ran stores, I liked to work three days, have a day off, and then work two more days. Five days in a row were about my max. Anything more than that, and I was sure I’d entered the Twilight Zone.
My memory would start to go, as would my patience. If you lead teams, you know. You need your memory and your patience to be filled to the top. When you work wonky schedules that cause you to get inconsistent sleep, both go empty quite quickly.
The dreaded clopen, when you close and then open the next day. The clopen is a burnout accelerator. If you work a clopen and then a few more days, you’re ready to set the mall on fire.
Not getting enough sleep will really mess with you. You can push through the next day, but soon your mind begins to go hazy. Before you know it, you begin to ask your customers, “Would you like the receipt in the bag?” like three times. When they look at you funny, you get the hint. “I already asked you that, didn’t I? Oops.”
Limiting your clopen shifts to only once weekly will help you mitigate the hazy brain caused by working late at night and then early the next day.
Take your time off and grant it as well. Get your vacation on the calendar now. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have plans. Get your time off approved and get it on the calendar. Now, you have something to look forward to.
In 2021, only one-quarter of Americans used all their vacation days. Let’s change those statistics.
When your support leaders request time off, do all you can to approve it. Unless it’s excessive, grant time off freely. Encourage people to have lives outside of work. It’s good for them, but it’s also good for you.
When people return from a break, they’re happier and more productive. It’s all upside. When your support leaders get breaks, they’ll also support you when you go on vacation.
When retail teams have worked together for a while, they get to know each other well. A messy ponytail or a slight shift in posture can tell you that someone is starting to fizzle before they even vocalize it.
(Is Heather not wearing eyeliner today? Uh oh. That means she’s a bit crispy.)
So, retail teams do what they do best – they dig down and support one another.
It’s what we do, of course.
It’s what we do, always.
Cut burnout down where you can. Stick to a typical schedule, only clopen once weekly, and use all that vacation time. Get rest and stay hydrated. Leave the uncomfortable shoes at home. Lean on each other, and you’ll all come out the other side.
Pretty soon, you’ll be able to taste that cold brew again, which may even give you the boost you expect.
Pretty soon, you’ll find Tasha hilarious again.
And pretty soon, you’ll be there for her when her fuse has gotten short.
Do what you can, and when burnout does knock you on your face, you can get back up, swinging.
Zipline is how best-in-class retailers bring brand strategies to life in stores. A unified platform for operational excellence, Zipline brings together frontline communications, task management, resources, insights, and more—so everyone feels connected to the brand and inspired by their work. Today, nearly 80 brands like Rite Aid and Sephora depend on Zipline to align and empower their store teams worldwide. Reach out to learn how Zipline can help you outsmart your competition today.
Kit Campoy is a former retail leader turned freelance writer based in Southern California. She covers Retail, Leadership, Web3, and more. Join the waitlist for her upcoming book, Leadership Field Guide, and connect with Kit on LinkedIn.
How Visionworks Builds a Culture of Engagement
Groceryshop 2023: Day 3 Takeaways
Groceryshop 2023: Day 2 Takeaways
Groceryshop 2023: Day 1 Takeaways
America’s Best Retailers 2023 are Powered by Zipline
Four Ways that The Container Store Builds a Culture of Engagement
Building the Future of Retail: Key Learnings from Future Stores Seattle
Zipline Summer Camp 2023
Transforming Retail with AI: Empowering Store Associates for Success
Retail Pride 2023