Anyone who has worked in customer service jobs such as retail and food service knows that this line of work is stressful and exhausting. The bulk of it includes dealing with rude customers, walking back and forth around the store completing tasks and standing at cash registers for hours on end, with foot and back pain as a result.
Many of my coworkers and I who have worked in retail for a while have also experienced carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist that results in numbness in the hand.
In reality, not every duty in customer service needs to be completed while standing. Ringing up customers and bagging their items could be completed efficiently and comfortably while sitting in a chair, allowing employees to do their jobs not only efficiently but comfortably. American corporations have to consider the welfare of their staff and treat them like human beings — not lifeless robots who bottle up their pain and serve smiles all day long.
In my experience of taking clothing off hangers, bagging items and processing payments, it is clear that tasks like these don’t require a lot of physical movement. Therefore, there is no need for employees to be forced to stand when sitting is just as optimal an option.
There are some busy days where I am stuck on the registers for three or four hours without a break. Days like those are rough, as I find myself fantasizing about how much I just want to sit down. When I heard about Aldi’s employees being allowed to sit while working, what I felt could only be described as jealousy.
Aldi is a fast growing chain of grocery stores in the United States that is well known for allowing their employees to sit while ringing up customers at the cash registers. This on top of Aldi’s fast-paced working environment and fair starting pay fulfills even more the dream of customer service workers.
Back strain and foot pain relief are not the only reasons Aldi workers sit while working at the cash register. Research done by Aldi has shown that their employees are actually able to scan items faster while seated.
Another task that can be done while seated has been prompted by the pandemic and its safety guidelines. In order to follow capacity restrictions, employees at various stores around the country have been tasked with keeping count of customers walking in and out of said establishments. This is a task that doesn’t need to be done while standing, and it causes needless strain on the employees who have to do it.
I have been assigned this role multiple times at my job, where I had to stand by the door and count every time someone entered or exited.
My coworkers and I had asked for a chair to sit while we worked, but we were told by store management that the district corporate team was not allowing employees to sit. We were not even allowed to lean against the display table we had in the front for occasional relief.
It’s concerning to me that so many companies seem to dismiss the physical health and wellbeing of their employees. If they took the time to understand that their employees would be more efficient at certain tasks if they were comfortable, not only would staff members be happier at work, but the company’s bottom line of profitability and employee satisfaction would improve as well.
While there are many features of the work environment that could be improved for those of us being paid minimum wage, being allowed to sit while we perform simple tasks is a small step toward refined working conditions.