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Tough Call: Overworked and under pressure

Tough Call: Overworked and under pressure

Your sales are up, but your people are stressed and tired. How do you keep your team members from burning out while serving your growing customer base?

As the independent owner of a two-location company selling building materials and hardware, you were overjoyed to learn that your company was considered “essential” when the initial COVID-19 restrictions began rolling out. With a customer base of both pros and homeowners/DIYers, you felt that you at least had a shot at serving your customers, keeping your team employed…and staying in business. You had no idea how any of this was going to play out, but you were determined to make the best of the hand you were dealt.

You worked with your team members to ensure that those at risk and with family members at risk either worked from home or used a combination of sick leave and paid time off to keep them safe. Anyone with as much as a cough or tickle in their throat was encouraged to stay home and isolate until they could be tested. Following CDC guidelines, you put social distancing measures in place in your retail store and yard, added plexiglass at registers, etc. In other words, you did everything required to keep customers and team members healthy. As it turned out, that was the easy part.

With fewer team members available to work, you implemented “battle pay” of an additional $2 per hour and shortened your store hours. At first, this was great. Team members appreciated the extra pay and were happy to work extra hours and pick up additional shifts. Word spread around the community that not only were you open—you were doing it right. This kept your regular customers coming and led to many new people coming into your store for the very first time.

Suddenly and surprisingly, your retail business has exploded. Despite shorter store hours and fewer associates on the floor, sales are up significantly from last year. As great as the numbers are, this situation is taking a serious toll on you and your team.

“With my husband furloughed from his job, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the extra hours and extra pay,” one store manager explained. “But angry customers who refuse to honor our social distancing rules, and who complain about this situation are really taking their toll on me and others. I’m worried that some of our people are getting burned out, and I haven’t been able to find enough temporary workers until our other people can come back to work.”

You’d hoped that this situation was a temporary bump in the road. But that hope is fading, and members of your team are paying the price. How can you balance the need to serve your growing customer base while keeping your team happy, healthy, and productive?

What would you do?

  • Recruit aggressively. You need to find good people and do whatever it takes to get them onboard before your core team members burn out.
  • Cut store hours. Determine how many hours a week your stores can operate without burning out your staff, then cut your hours to match.
  • Ask your team. Reach out to all of your team members individually, thank them for all that they’re doing, and ask for their suggestions/advice on what they think you should do.
  • “Battle Bonuses”. Tell your team that your sales are up, and it’s because of their hard work and commitment. Offer a weekly cash bonus to everyone who puts in 40 hours that week, as long as they’re healthy enough to come to work.

What would you do?


If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to James@LBMJournal.com. If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.