2020 has seen our shopping habits as consumers change. No longer are retailers available to indulge our insatiable habit to consume 24/7. We as a nation are adjusting to a life without the 7 day a week availability, we have become so accustomed to. As a result, both the supplier and consumer are now spending more valuable time with their families and friends. So, should we now ask ourselves; is it necessary to have retail available 24 hours a day?
Some of us may even remember a gentler pace for retail, when shops were not only closed on Sundays, but also for half a day during the week too. This was most typically considered ‘half day Wednesdays or Thursdays’, a requirement by law under The Shop Hours Act of 1912. Half day closing was an opportunity to restock shelves and manage the essential admin side of running such businesses. Whereas all were prepared for half day closing, most ensured anything required for these days was brought ahead of time. A 5-and-a-half-day retail week meant retailers were able to spend valuable time with their families, and the lack of constant availability meant consumers, through habit alone, spent more time with theirs too. A work to life balance was easily achieved for both those suppliers and their consumers. Not everything was available around the clock, people shopped in preparation, but always sensibly. However, the needs of the consumer soon took the reins on shop hours and these acts were updated in 1994. These now allowed shops under a certain size to operate freely with unrestricted times, with larger retailers adhering to more restricted Sunday hours. With this our appetite for consumerism had been indulged, with 24-hour retail very quickly taking off.
Is it now time to question the effects 24/7 consumerism has on our communities and the very people serving us? It is reported that 1 in 4 employees suffer from mental health problems. These range from stress, anxiety and depression, which is reported as not only affecting our own performance and wellbeing across sectors, but that of our colleagues too. These figures are specifically relevant amongst retail employees who work notoriously demanding hours on the least pay. According to Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), £30 billion is lost per year as a result of 15.2 million sick days, reduced productivity and recruitment issues relating to employees’ mental health. Employees constantly changing schedules and unreliable shifts in retail are highly responsive to consumer demand. These routine uncertainties in work schedules are strongly tied to worker health and well-being within retail. Longer opening hours result in multiple and ever-changing shifts, which greatly impacts the mental health and wellbeing of those employees.
We work some of the longest hours in Europe, which is greatly impacting our health and wellbeing. 57% of all sick days were due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression, and 44% of these were caused by workload pressure alone. Could working less hours benefit our communities on a whole? To do so we must begin to encourage organisations to integrate technologies, in turn freeing up the demand for socially unfriendly staff hours and boosting wages of those existing. If we really want to tackle our high burnout, low-wage economy, we require bold changes and solutions. Latis strives to build homes that harbour technologies allowing them to spend more time with families and in the communities that serve them; in turn creating both economic and social growth in our urban towns.