As Retail Reopens, a Focus on Employee Mental Health


National Retail Federation | May 28, 2020


As retailers open their doors in the time of COVID-19, many might find their associates are dealing with a new array of challenges. Retail associates not only cope with their own problems but constantly interact with consumers that have theirs. Fear of infection, the need to social distance and new societal norms have radically changed the shopping environment in recent months. Even as the number of infections and deaths decline, the economic and societal fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic could linger for years.


Vaile Wright, clinical psychologist and senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association says, “We’re seeing lots of data points that point to a significant mental health pandemic coinciding with and following COVID.” Now more than ever, retailers must take an active interest in their employees’ mental health and well-being, says Lisa Adukia, manager of global benefits systems innovation at Gap Inc. The complexity and simultaneity of issues means the root causes of the pandemic-related anxiety and stress can vary.

Gap Canada has adopted the Not Myself Today program, a workplace mental health campaign run by the Canadian Mental Health Association. Participating companies receive a tool kit for implementation and orientation guides, customizable communications, short videos and awareness-building materials. With different engagement activities and evaluation tools, employers can assess the impacts of mental health on their workplace. "If mental health wasn’t on your radar before, it needs to be now." Friesen says, "Investing in good access to benefits and care is really important, but training and education can show a return on investment.”


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