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Retail workspaces becoming more strict and mobile could be a major pain point, warns on-line job site founder

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Despite many retail organisations bending over backwards to meet employee demands, nearly two thirds (60.5%) of retail workers believe that workplaces have actually become more strict – and many employees are worried about the role of mobile in the workplace and what it might mean.

This is according to new data from CV-Library, the UK’s leading independent job site. It explored the views of 2000 UK workers around unacceptable behaviour in the workplace and how employers are handling it. It found that more health and safety rules (43.5%), new employment laws (23.9%), and less tolerance in the workplace (15.2%) were the main reasons behind employers in the retail sector becoming stricter.

Furthermore, it appears employers are much sterner when it comes to personal behaviour and a lack of professionalism amongst their staff. And mobile is becoming a problem, especially in customer facing roles such as retail.

According to Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library: “As digital technology continues to evolve, many employers across the board have voiced their concerns over the use of smart devices in the workplace. For retail workers in particular, who often spend vast amounts of time in customer-facing roles, using tablets and smartphones for personal use during working hours is deemed inappropriate and could ultimately damage the brand’s reputation. However, there are instances where this technology can be used to better service customers, and to make the process smoother and more efficient for consumers on the shop floor; in this case, the use of tablets and smartphones in retail workplaces could be beneficial.”

Biggins also believes that there are yet to be unearthed dangers with arming store staff with other mobile tech.

“Some retail workers have voiced concerns that using this technology in their day to day work could lead to stricter workplace rules and even micromanagement, providing employers with increased access to employee tasks and activities throughout the day. Much like businesses who provide their staff with wearable technology having access to data such as step counts and hours of sleep, retail employers should seek a balance where staff can use digital technology to improve customer satisfaction, without feeling like they are being micromanaged or policed.”

Aside from mobile, the study went on to find that retail workers agree that the following taboos were unacceptable in today’s workplace:

  • Tattoos and piercings (75%)

  • Smoking (75%)

  • Lack of personal hygiene (73.7%)

  • Talking behind co-workers backs (72.4%)

  • Swearing (61.8%)

Worse still, over three quarters (81.6%) of employees in this sector said that they would find these unacceptable taboos distracting in the workplace, confirming that they not only affect the people conducting them, but also their peers.

“This type of disruption harms both staff and overall business productivity, so it’s not surprising that employers are implementing sterner rules around behaviour at work,” says Biggins. “A large part of a retail worker’s day is likely to be spent customer-facing, and being presentable to the public is important, which explains why tattoos, piercings and smoking emerged as the top workplace taboos.”

Interestingly though, while employers are less tolerant of unacceptable behaviour, retail workers actually believe that actions that were previously frowned upon, such as dating colleagues, talking about salaries, taking personal calls, and wearing casual clothes are becoming more ‘acceptable’ in the workplace.

Biggins continues: “Our data reveals some stark contradictions between workplace strictness and office taboos. Whilst it is very much down to the organisation in question, these findings align with trends we are seeing in the workplace, such as flexible working, casual dress codes and more openness around salaries, through gender pay gap discussions.

“Personally, I believe that a certain amount of strictness is needed to ensure that productivity levels remain high, but this needs to be balanced out with great company perks in order to keep workers happy and motivated.”

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