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The Convenience of Mental Wellness

The Convenience of Mental Wellness

By the Mental Health Commission of Canada

As all retail employees know, customer service can be rewarding and emotionally taxing. The satisfaction and pride you might feel in meeting your customer’s needs can easily turn to frustration when facing a difficult customer or situation. While many employees can take those challenges in stride, others find that they may affect their mental well-being.

Of course, we can’t control what customers say or do. But owners, managers, and workers can take steps to protect psychological health and safety in the retail industry and improve mental health for the company as a whole.

Dealing with difficult people

With all the hustle and bustle in the industry, customers and co-workers have been known to take their stress out on employees. So, what can employers do to protect workers from physical harm and the psychological stress it brings?

Having clear rules in place and enforcing them with customers will go a long way toward building trust and confidence while giving you and your team a sense of safety. Ensure managers and workers have clear instructions on the procedures they should follow, including how to deal with difficult situations and when and how to call for help from security or the police. Ideally, staff members should be trained in skills, including de-escalation techniques, to address demanding situations.

Supporting mental health

Never underestimate the help and support that mental health professionals can provide, but be aware that many people who need support never seek it out due to stigma. It’s important to share as many resources as your company can offer. Connect frequently with all employees to communicate the available supports, both inside (e.g. benefits and programs) and outside your organization. For companies that don’t offer mental health benefits, Wellness Together Canada (  and CMHA’s Find Help ( offer beneficial online support.

In addition to these resources, showing empathy is one of the best ways to help staff members manage stressful situations. Understanding what employees are going through and communicating clearly with them are highly useful strategies since it can be difficult to process tasks and large quantities of information if we feel overwhelmed.

Bear in mind as well that small gestures to you can be big gestures to others. When people are struggling to make ends meet, experiencing loneliness, or feeling isolated, knowing that their organization and peers care about them can be a great help. One way to do that is giving unexpected tokens of appreciation, like a dessert delivery, a cozy blanket, or a gift card. Another is encouraging employees to indulge themselves in healthy ways when comfort is needed.

Winter can also significantly affect our mood and mental health, even outside the added stresses of holiday shopping. In these circumstances, it’s important to support employees and managers by being mindful of their experiences and regularly checking in with them. The Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Mini-Guide to Help Employees’ Mental Health Through Winter, available at, offers additional tips, tools, and resources.

For more general strategies on cultivating mental health in the workplace, including de-escalation tips for difficult situations, see the Retail Council of Canada’s Mental Health in Retail Guidebook, available at

With all the changes we’ve endured over the past years, supporting employee mental health is more important than ever.


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