Jack Mason, Founder and Group CEO discusses how we can get the retail industry booming again.

Coming out of the worst of the pandemic means a few things – most of us are vaccinated, restrictions are slowly being lifted and most importantly, retail is back!

After a tricky few years, it looks like the days of our retail outlets and city centre offices being left empty due to lockdowns is no more. Although we’re still feeling the effects of staff isolating, I’m hoping that from now on it will be smoother sailing ahead. Now that businesses don’t need to panic about furlough and shock closures, we can focus on how to build back better with more efficient, flexible and agile organisations than ever before. A lot of companies are becoming more flexible and allowing their teams to work from home at least some of the time. So how can we get people back into the workplace, keep our teams happy, and keep our businesses afloat?Here are some ideas of mine, and some ideas that I’ve seen other companies begin to incorporate.

Redefining the workplace

For years we’ve had a very rigid idea of what the workplace is. It’s supposed to be a place where you come to work, and once you finish your shift, you go back home and forget about it – with this process being repeated day in, day out.

We’ve now seen big changes in how people approach their work and their relationship with it. In response, some forward-thinking organisations are beginning to redefine previous ideas of what a place of work can be. Offices are turning into hybrid social and work locations where people can spend time, meet colleagues, and relax. This is such a breath of fresh air so it has me thinking, why can’t we use this same approach in retail locations, too? Updating your staff areas to be more relaxing, inspiring, and comfortable spaces for your co-workers to relax on their breaks can make a big difference. Providing these experiences for our staff could act as a real encouragement to return to work and improve their wellbeing at the same time.

Making the commute more manageable

One of the most common reasons people have for wanting to work remotely is to get rid of the daily commute. Spending time on a busy train, bus, or in traffic is not a fun way for anyone to start and end the day and if we’re honest, with train and Tube fares rising, it also cuts in to our disposable income too. If we want our teams to be at their most productive, creative and collaborative best, it starts with their commute to work.

I’ve seen that in London, the DLR train carriages are getting refurbished to make the commute a truly special experience. Special ‘chill-out’ carriages have been fitted to focus on ‘mindfulness’ during the morning and evening commute. On-board areas are being redecorated with images of forest, ocean, mountain, and countryside scenes – a pleasant change from what can be a grey city skyline in the winter months.

We’ve also seen meditation corners pop up in some of the key DLR stations like Canary Wharf, Tower Gateway, and Woolwich Arsenal. These are areas people can visit and unwind amongst the hustle and bustle of city workers going to and from the office. Both are such great initiatives, that will revolutionise the commuting experience for many of our workers. I’m really excited to see more of these transformations take place in the capital – and hopefully across the rest of the country too.

Flexible work schedules

Leading on from the previous point, offering flexible work schedules could be another way to make the return to work a reason to engage, be positive and embrace the chance to once again be back with colleagues. I’m not saying that we can give people days off or the option to work remotely all the time but allowing people to be flexible with their hours to accommodate their lifestyle could be a bonus.

People who take the train to work might want the flexibility to start shifts a few hours later to avoid the busy rush-hour traffic. Similarly, parents may also want to start later so they have time to do the school run. After the pandemic, we all want to make our working lives that little bit easier. We don’t want our professional lives to come at the expense of our personal lives, so small changes in our schedules can make a really big difference.

Summary

I think the future in both commerce and retail is especially exciting at the moment. From the changes we’re seeing in-store, the changing attitudes of consumers, and how we’re prioritising employee mental health and wellbeing in the office, there’s a sense that anything is possible. We’re thinking about ways the workplace can evolve, how work life balance can be well, more balanced and how we can all get more from the time we spend at our place of work. As organisations, it’s an opportunity to allow our teams to thrive, to tap into new ways of working, uncover new efficiencies and pioneer new approaches. Now is a great time to be in retail.

At Inc & Co we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve, to listen, to learn and to lead. To stay relevant in today’s market, brands need to listen to consumers and employees and be prepared to adapt to these rapidly changing times.

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Jack Mason, Inc & Co, Group CEO. Oversees the strategic direction of the company, which was created to bring businesses together to help improve their business operations and collaborate together.