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Is Working Retail Bad for your Health?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Reports have it that depression and anxiety cost the global economy approximate $1 trillion per year. Research shows that the United States (US) alone loses $450 – 500 billion in lost productivity. In fact, left untreated, workplace stress contributes to at least 120,000 deaths in the US each year.

Those numbers are even more severe for those who work at retail outlets, especially since most people working retail believe that their job has a negative impact on their overall health – higher than people working in any other sector.

With the massive growth of the retail and food service sectors in the United States economy in recent years, alarm bells should be sounding in all of our heads about the implications for the people who ring up purchases and serve meals.

Instead of establishing family sustaining jobs, a good deal of retailers and restaurants offer annoying pay, poor benefits and little room for advancement. Over the years, these same establishments have implemented on – call shifts and embraced scheduling systems that assign the people who work for them too few hours on too short notice.

In the United States, company policies ultimately force employees to maintain open availability for full – time hours when they are only assigned and compensated for part – time hours. Supervisors commonly send staff home before their shift ends without compensation.

This is the main reason why so many Americans working in retail and food service are feeling stressed. Note that when you are living day – to – day with no way of knowing when you are going to be called into work or how much your pay check will be, it is that much more challenging to budget, head to the doctor’s office, or plan for childcare.

The dynamic of the retail operation is a complicated web of activity. Minds, machines, individuals, and technologies are all expected to work in concert as the controlled chaos of the retail enterprise marches forward. To keep it all running smoothly, it is critical that we remain on a safe and productive path.

10 Reasons Why Working Retail is Bad for Your Health

Retail jobs are often bad because they are treated as temporary by nearly everyone; however there are few reasons why many think retail is bad for their health. These reasons include;

  1. Overexertion Injuries

Although being a non – impact injury resulting from excessive physical effort, overexertion is a primary cause of the inflammation of joints and ligaments that results from excessive physical effort. Also note that excessive physical effort can affect people in different ways: for some it may result into little or no pain or discomfort and for some it may be debilitating.

  1. Lifting and Handling Materials

Have it in mind that improper lifting, pushing, pulling, lowering and twisting associated with retailing can cause strains, sprains, and other serious injuries. Improper techniques, physical capabilities, pre – existing conditions and other related issues can contribute to potential risks.

  1. Fluctuating, Unpredictable Schedules

The shifts and hours for retail workers are subject to change with little or no notice. A great manager can help minimize the impact and pain of this, but even great managers are shackled to the realities of the business and will have to sometimes deny a worker’s request for Saturday off, etc. And workers also have to work weekends and holidays, because it is retail. This ever – changing schedule not only has implications for time management, but also on income and family time. When you are paid by the hour, if your schedule drops from 40 to 32 hours one week, you just made 20 percent less money. And even full – time retail jobs are rarely 40 hours in the first place, so an 8 hour fluctuation might be a 25 – 30 percent drop.

  1. Forklifts and Pallet Jacks

Just about anything that is mechanical and moves have the ability to be a hazard. Many retail place hazards are caused by the moving parts of mechanical devices. Mechanical hazards can be caused by bending, punching, pulling, caught – in, caught – on, and crush accidents that can cut, crush, break bones, strain muscles and cause additional and even more serious injuries.

  1. Slips, Trips, and Falls

Have it in mind that both employees and customers may fall due to trips and slips, and many can be avoided with proper care, maintenance, and housekeeping. However, the severity of the injury is normally based on the velocity of the impact; the hardness and other characteristics (smooth, rough, etc.) of the surface that you land on; and the orientation of the body upon impact.

  1. Stress at Work

According to reliable reports, 25 percent of retail employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives. Job stress is more or less defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.

  1. Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is simply any act or threat of physical violence, abuse, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behaviour that occurs in the work setting. In the retail industry, this can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, contractors, customers and other visitors. Irrespective of how it occurs, workplace violence is a growing concern for retail employers and employees nationwide.

  1. Workplace Bullying

This is more or less seen as the persistent, unreasonable actions directed towards a subordinate or co – worker who is intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine; or which create a risk to the health or safety of the employee. Note that this may involve verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. In the retail industry, bullying behaviour often involves an abuse or misuse of power, creates feelings of defencelessness and injustice, and undermines an individual’s right to dignity at work.

  1. Knives, Box Cutters, and Other Sharps

Have it in mind that one of the most common and preventable injuries are cuts and lacerations. These retail workplace hazards are more or less the result of improper training, failure to use necessary personal protection equipment, a failure to follow established safety procedures, and employees who are in hurry and taking shortcuts.

  1. Being Struck by or Against

Note that these are injuries that are the result of being struck by or struck against something (such as product falling off a shelf). Don’t forget that the severity of the injury is typically based on the velocity of the impact (how hard you are hit, and the distance that the object falls/travels); the characteristics (size, shape, weight, hardness, etc.) of the object; and the body part affected by the impact.

10 Reasons Why Working Retail is Good for your Health

Normally if you carry grudges, wallow in stress, and refuse to be accountable for yourself, anywhere you work can hurt your health; retail is no exception. But if you respect yourself, and the job, retail can give you skills and benefits that will last a lifetime not matter what career you end up in.

  1. Exercise

You can say anything about retail salespeople, but they are never lazy. Have it in mind that walking the floor, stocking shelves, and moving merchandise all take effort. Stretching, reaching overhead, and bending down all help burn calories.

  1. Social Skills

Note that from bosses and co – workers to customers, salespeople are meant to interact with a wide range of people. Getting out of your head and phone helps you feel connected and less alone.

  1. Goal Setting

If you really understand how to set, and meet your sales goals, setting personal goals become that much easier. But without having a goal, most people would say life can feel pointless. Achieving goals, even small ones bring about a sense of accomplishment.

  1. Positivity

Note that if you make it through your 90 – day retail sales training, you’ll have a more positive outlook. Remember that customers don’t buy from negative salespeople so, if you are still there, you’ve learned something. That is why it is very important to cultivate that sense of accomplishment so you remain someone who looks forward to meeting people.

  1. Belonging

Indeed a good company and good team members can give you a sense of purpose and belonging that is usually reserved for families. Note there is no better feeling than walking into work and knowing that people are happy you are there.

  1. Teamwork

According to reports, retail sales training will teach you to work with other people as a team, even if you don’t see eye to eye. This skill will translate to your life as a whole and help with your everyday dealing with people.

  1. Problem Solving

It can be a merchandise problem, a customer problem, or a team problem; you are mostly involved in finding and implementing the solution. Note that the more your brain is confronted with change, the more elastic you can be as life throws things at you.

  1. Time Management

It is believed that time management is a skill to last a lifetime. Retail teaches you what your time is worth, and how to use it. You show up on time, do your work, and remain productive – managing your time will carry on no matter what else you do in your personal or professional life.

  1. Diversity Training

Irrespective of what you do, you are going to meet people of all races, creeds, cultures, sexual orientations, and attitudes. Only few things can prepare you for the challenges in life like working retail. Retail helps you meet people not like you and find common ground.

  1. Economic Health

Without doubt, if you work at it, improve yourself and work for good retailers, you can make a decent living. If you learn additional life lessons, it is a bonus.


Note that working retail will definitely influence your life and health positively and negatively. However, for retailers, it all comes down to treating employees like they are human beings worthy of respect. Trust in the work that they are doing and provide them validation that they are contributing to the overall mission. Have it in mind that being valued and having an open communication channel between employees have proved to be the greatest improvements that retail businesses and organizations can make to keep their best talent.