I cannot explain to you the heart-stopping pressure that weighs on you as a retail worker when you realise that social distancing is not a simple task.
I manage a team of exceptional staff; all mature, all experienced in the ways of retail and in life. Leading up to the NSW lockdown earlier this year, there was a lot of apprehension. We all have families; we have parents in the high-risk category, and young children, nieces and nephews and grandchildren to worry about.
I myself had five weeks off work just a year ago with pneumonia. We were all worried about the possible implications of this virus.
Our employer, an Australian fashion brand, was one of the first to close its doors. This was before Jobkeeper was announced, and frankly our relief outweighed any financial concerns. We were so appreciative of their concern for our wellbeing.
Watch: A thank you to face masks. Post continues below.
We no longer had to expose ourselves to busy shopping centres; to have people cough and sneeze in our faces (yes, that actually happens). We could protect ourselves and our loved ones, do the right thing and isolate at home.
Then came the moment when the powers that be decided to reopen our stores. So, after months of doing the right thing and isolating, we re-entered our workplace. To say it was a shock to the system was an understatement. Westfield was BUSY! And by busy, I mean Christmas peak trade busy.
Social distancing was an impossible task. We opted to walk stairs and ramps in place of lifts. The lifts - despite having clear signage with new, safe passenger limits - were crammed full of eager shoppers. You could not physically walk from one location to another in the centre without brushing shoulders with others.
Our team formed new habits and did not leave our store; we didn’t break outside of the confines of our own shop.
Occasionally when we couldn’t hold it any longer, we would escape to the bathroom - and every time it was an immediate regret. There were LINES of people waiting, toilet paper was low, and handwash was hit and miss.