Retail tips for home working

The government has announced plans to shut all non-essential shops, as the pandemic crisis escalates. Although a number of retailers have already closed stores ahead of the lockdown – including Primark, which is bricks and mortar only. 

In many ways retail is one of the least prepared sectors for home working. According to a survey by business intelligence software comapny Leesman, 46% of retail employees said they have no remote working experience out of 22,756 polled globally.

However, for many smaller online companies the transition has been easier given the nature of their businesses. 

Natasha Necati, business development manager at retailer Crafty Arts, says as a lot of the company’s staff already worked in both the shop and e-tail side of the business – which has allowed them to now focus on eCommerce. 

Crafty Arts moved from predominantly being bricks and mortar to online several years ago and had reduced its bricks and mortar footprint to just one shop. “Everyone bar the warehouse team is able to work remotely,” she says. It is also looking into ways it can run its in-store workshops online. 

Tools for communicating

Necati says the key is checking in with team regularly is important as “it can be quite lonely working from home on your own”. 

Julinne Ponan, chief executive of Creative Nature Superfoods, agrees. “We were already using Slack to communicate and that is really good as you can set up different channels for different areas of the business and it tells you if a person is online and whether they are contactable.” The company’s CRM also lends itself to the new remote working environment, she says.  

“So already having that in place has helped. But the challenge is that everyone is now working from home.” In order to recreate the face-to-face office environment, the business is using Zoom video conferencing at three set times a day. “It’s nice to have that chat and maintain the human connection… You know how everyone else is doing in the team.”

She adds: “This allows regular check-ups which is the most important thing and keeps everything on track. 

“There will be times you see children screaming in the background and I think businesses need to deal with that.. It’s not going to be unprofessional because everyone is in the same boat.”

Key tools for home working

Communication: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack

Project management: Basecamp,, Workflow

HR & finance: Workday, When I Work

Security is crucial 

Both Necati and Ponan also stress the need to put strong privacy and security policies in place when staff are working from home and handling customer data, having ensured home working practises are fully compliant with GDPR with laptops locked down and sensitive information secure.

Pete Watson, the CEO of hosting company Atlas Cloud, agrees. "Most businesses are run using a device-led model – where work and sensitive data is often held on devices, like laptops and smartphone themselves. Businesses need to move from device-led desktops and move towards virtual or server-led desktops – where information is stored on on-premise servers, private or public cloud, or any combination of the three.”

Doing so take the control of business and customer information out of the hands of individual employees, where the information is more vulnerable and gives control back to company IT administrators, he adds.

The right equipment 

A surge in home working has led to a shortage of laptops. “We’ve managed to set up laptops, which has been a challenge as you can’t get new laptops for love nor money. So we’ve reconditioned some old laptops,” says Anne Davies, owner of online children’s furniture retailer Room to Grow.

“It’s all really new to us, as an online business we do an awful lot on PCs anyway, but because we are in an office we are used to that office environment [with all the teams together]. But actually it’s worked so much better than we’d hoped.”

The business has set up Microsoft Teams to discuss what they’re doing each day and designate tasks and is already using project management tool Basecamp. “With suppliers and agencies we can do virtual meetings, which we have been doing anyway,” she adds. 

The main challenge is making sure everyone is coping. “It’s just about keeping morale up and letting people know we are virtually here.”