The Christmas shopping season is beginning to heat up. While that means lots of people are looking for bargains, it also means lots of retail and seasonal employees working long shifts, standing up stocking shelves, dealing with customers and ringing up purchases. If you're one of them, here are some tips for dealing with those long, arduous shifts you're bound to be assigned this Christmas.
When I worked retail (admittedly a long time ago), the Christmas rush wasn't quite as bad as it is these days. Sure, it's an opportunity to make Christmas spending money, but it can also take its toll on your health and sanity.
Take Care of Your Feet (and They'll Take Care of You)
Standing is definitely better than sitting to work, there's no doubt about that, but standing in one place for long hours isn't good for you either. It can lead to joint pain, sore feet and poor posture. Even if you get to move around stocking shelves, running from the front of a store to the back, or between stockrooms and warehouses, you're still getting short bursts of movement in between long hours of standing still. Here are a few ways to stay in good shape:
- Wear comfortable shoes. Depending on where you work, you may have restrictions on the types of shoes you can wear, but if you know you'll be pulling long hours this Christmas, make sure you get comfortable shoes that fit the profile. Cushioned soles, arch support, preferably slip-ons that you can take on and off when you need to quickly. If you know you'll be doing a lot of hoofing it between buildings, offices, warehouses or other places, comfortable sneakers or walking shoes are in order.
- Get a cushioned mat for your work station. If you know you're going to be stuck in one place, like at a customer service counter, a teller window or a cash register, see if you can get a cushioned mat to stand on while you're there. You can get waterproof ones for kitchens, or soft ones for standing workbenches. Of course, you may have to convince your manager to let you bring one in, but they're worth it.
- Move around as often as you can. Some jobs really do keep you penned to your location for the duration of your shift, but try to get around and stretch as much as you can. If you're working a double shift, no one's going to mind if you take a second to do some side stretches, squats, leg lifts, anything to keep the blood flowing and flex the joints that you're not using. Try some of these; they're useful even if you don't have a desk.
Take good care of your feet, seriously. You'll already work long shifts, the last thing you want is to be so dead on your feet by the end of the day or the end of your shift that you can't enjoy the precious time off you actually have. Try to stay in good spirits and limber while you work, and you won't find yourself dying to just lay down at the end of the day (even if you know you'll just have to get back up and go back in a few hours).
Keeping yourself hydrated is the best thing you can possibly do. The debate rages on how much water you actually need, but there are plenty of ways to get the amount of water that you need, whatever that may be. Personally, I used to like to keep a water bottle at my station that I could grab a swig from in between customers.
A refillable water bottle works best, since you can always sneak away to a fountain and top it off (or have someone else do it for you and bring it back while you're working). Remember, sometimes you may not know you're dehydrated until you're already feeling tired and a little out of sorts, so try to make it a regular thing. Dehydration can creep up quickly, especially if you're under stress or too busy to notice the signs. You don't want your afternoon bathroom break to be the sign that pulls all the symptoms together and explains why you were tired and a little grouchy all morning. That said, hydrate in moderation -- it's important for your health, but odds are if you're working a customer-facing job, you can't just walk off every time you need to go to the restroom.
Get Your Friends to Help
Appeal to your friends to help you in your time of need. They may be out shopping anyway, or they may just be in your corner because they have no intention of fighting over half-price Blu-rays. See if they're willing to bring you something to drink from time to time, or a snack -- maybe lunch. Even a cheerful face can mean a lot. Those big shopping days and long shifts can make it difficult to get away even to grab a cup of coffee or a sandwich. Plus, when you do, you could watch half of your lunch break evaporate while waiting in line at a fast food joint along with all of the other people out in the madness of the Christmas rush.
Instead, ask your friends to brave the crowds -- not to shop but to do you a solid and bring you a hot cup of coffee or lunch. You'll get the benefit of something good to eat or drink, good company, and you'll get to actually enjoy more of your break instead of wasting part of it running from place to place or waiting in line for food.
Make Sure You Get Your Breaks
Speaking of breaks, make sure you take them. Sadly, depending on where you work, breaks can be governed more by who's available to cover than the actual rules. If everyone's busy, chances are no one's going to take time out just to tell you to grab your break -- you have to look out for yourself. Decide in advance when you're going -- ideally a longer lunch or dinner and a few 15-minute breaks over the course of your shift -- and get a buddy to agree to cover for you in advance (and you can cover for them). Let your supervisor know when you plan to take them early; that way they can't feign ignorance when the time comes and you need to go. Set a timer or alarm on your phone and keep it in your pocket while you work. When your phone vibrates, you know it's time to slip away. Give your buddy the signal and bail.
However you do it, by hook or by crook, make sure you get some time away from the hustle and bustle that comes with long hours, busy shifts and lots of people. Even the most extroverted among us need some time away from the crowds and the noise to recharge. Besides, unless you work somewhere where your manager or teammates will really appreciate you not taking breaks, you'll only be hurting yourself by working through them.
Take Deep Breaths and Stay Grounded
Remember, it will all be worth it (hopefully) when that payslip comes in. Take deep breaths and repeat to yourself that all this will pass. Try to keep yourself grounded. You may not think you have time for mediation, but it only takes a few deep breaths and a couple of seconds to get your mental bearings and reset your brain for the next customer, job coming down the line, or task you have to work on. If you have two minutes, you have time to meditate. Even if you don't have two minutes -- and I distinctly remember that sometimes I didn't have two minutes between one angry customer and the next -- just being present and mindful can do a lot to take the edge off. Remember, your shift has to end eventually, and you'll be able to walk away with a smile -- and a few more dollars in your pocket than you had yesterday.