Inside 769 during the pandemic
On the face of it we were open – selling our usual assortment with the usual levels of customer service and the constant sound of the tills in action. The same old routines – roll out the stock, date code checks, Loomis visits, fire checks and reducing to name a few.
Beyond that things were far from the same.
Eventually, plastic screens were erected to protect cashiers and customers alike. Enhanced cleaning procedures were introduced with the tell-tale sanitiser dispensers and anti-bacterial wipes close by. Subsequently masks or visors were being worn by both partners and customers alike. These tended to make conversation difficult if social distancing was observed as well. The tannoy system relayed reminders of ‘Covid-19 acceptable behaviours‘ to all who listened. ‘Please respect the 2-metre rule; try and shop as quickly as possible to allow fellow customers to enter the Branch to shop and shop alone if possible’. It was now necessary to limit the number of customers shopping at any one time and this was monitored by the newly employed guard at the store entrance ‘clicker in hand’ to keep a tally.
New faces appeared at 769. Clearly new customers ventured into the store – drawn by the relative safety of the Covid-19 procedures. Other new faces were Partners from John Lewis Milton Keynes. They quickly adapted to ‘the Waitrose way’ and they added a new dimension to Partner interactions both on the shop floor and in the PDR. We welcomed the extra pairs of hands and enjoyed reading about them on the ‘table talkers’. The PDR changed too – tables were separated – one partner at each end; we were asked to sanitise chair and table after use. There were tears, anxiety and down right panic acted out over coffee etc but plenty of free food and drink which was very comforting in such a stressful workplace.
In the run up to Xmas – a headache in ‘normal times’ more changes occurred. First click and collect for Waitrose food was introduced which was something of a challenge for a branch like 769 with a small warehouse. The turkey orders also needed careful planning which resulted in a gazebo being erected outside the branch alongside the Xmas trees on sale. This became the operational centre/ alternative customer service desk during this peak time.
Another departure from usual behaviour – meetings in the warehouse were encouraged as people avoided the offices to uphold the 2metre rule. The zoom meeting became almost a daily routine for some instead of going to meetings in Bracknell or other local branches.
By the Spring of 2021 and having weathered 3 lock downs these changes to the way we work – so we can all stay safe – have become the new normal.