Working through the pandemic: a retail worker’s perspective

Emily Mossad is adjusting to her new normal as an Old Navy sales associate at CF Markville.

From the moment she sets foot into the store to when she leaves at the end of her shift, Mossad is required to wear a mask at all times with the exception of eating and drinking. Prior to the start of every shift, she’s also required to fill out a health check form that questions if she has experienced any COVID-19 symptoms or has been in contact with anyone who has it.

Shopping centres in Ontario closed in mid-March. At the time, Mossad said that she thought stores would only be closed for about two weeks and then open up again. What she didn’t expect, was being out of work for over two months.

“No one expected to be gone for months, so when we first got the news, I wasn’t bothered by it,” she said. “That was until weeks were going by. The world was changing so fast and it just became scary and uncomfortable not knowing what was going to happen.” 

Mossad’s first day back was May 31. Shopping centres were still closed to the public at the time, but she was going in to process shipments and online orders. She said working while shopping centres were closed didn’t worry her, but when she heard they were going to be opening up again, she started having concerns.

“Since I wasn’t working with customers at first, I wasn’t too worried, but when we got the news that malls were opening I started to worry about not only my health but the risk I’d be bringing to my family because every shift working with customers is risky.” 

With shopping centres officially re-opened last week, Mossad said there has been several changes to workplace procedures and her responsibilities as an employee. On top of the fundamental customer service duties that she has, new store regulations require all cash counters, credit card terminals, and fitting rooms to be sanitized after each and every customer. There also used to be eight fitting rooms available for use, but currently, they have limited the number of available rooms to four. The store capacity has also been capped at a maximum of 55-60 people, and a deep clean of the entire store is done after closing.

For customers, they’re required to stay six feet apart from one another and have access to hand sanitizer throughout the store.

Though these safety measures have been put in place, Mossad said that not all customers have been following the new protocols.

“My days at work during this time often feel really overwhelming,” she said. “What is most difficult would probably be that not everyone coming in and out of the store are respectful of our new protocols. It’s unfortunate that there are still many people not keeping their distance or not wearing masks, and sometimes, I don’t feel as safe as I’d like to.”

Mossad said that although working during this time is challenging, she finds comfort in her coworkers.

“A workplace full of good people and good relationships with everyone is so important,” she said. “It just feels good to know that I’m surrounded by coworkers that all care about each other’s safety and are all respectful of each other and the new rules we have in place.”

York Region Council recently voted to make wearing a mask mandatory inside public places, including shopping malls and places of worship. Effective July 17, business owners and operators in York Region must have a policy in place to prohibit people from entering if they are not wearing a face mask or covering. Customers, employees and visitors who enter enclosed public spaces must wear a face mask or covering.


Photo: Emily Mossad wears her mask at all times as part of her store’s new COVID-19 safety regulations.

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