Same Faces, New Places: TPSS Staff During the COVID-19 Crisis

Leandra Nichola, Community Engagement Manager

In March, when we learned that the store would be closed to the public and would be transitioning to fully online operations, everyone agreed that coming to work would not be the same for a long time. But, none of us could have imagined the kind of agility and dedication we would all need to muster to keep the store operational – one way or another (or another).

Since then, “adapt” has been our mantra. And, every Co-op staff person is living that mantra. Stockers have become order pickers. Cashiers have become quality control and order packing experts. Folks who never use a computer at work are using spreadsheets, apps, and email. We have all become safety and sanitation pros. People who like to write make customer lists, those who like to organize make space where none existed, and those who miss seeing customers work hours outside to get orders safely into customers’ hands. Department managers have designed essentials-only versions of their departments. There are warehouse audits and virtual returns and online orders processing. Everything has been new.

As the store has opened back up to our owners and shoppers, we have been busy doing more adapting. There is a familiarity in stocking shelves and checking customers out. But, staff are now doing this work in combination with what’s required to operate the online store, along with managing changes for safety and stepping into additional roles to ensure smooth operations. We take turns as door monitors, parking lot attendants, and warehouse coordinators in between the roles we served in before the pandemic. Some folks take on work that can be done from home. We make spreadsheets and schedules and are constantly touching base to make sure everything is covered and that the load is being shared. 

While changing store operations called for adaptation, equitable distribution of work is our motivation to keep doing it. Working in numerous roles each shift and cross-training have been our methods for making this happen. In the last 6 months, we doubled the number of staff people who are trained to work on the register, both so we can ring customers up curbside and so that cashiers can work shorter shifts inside the store. Because so many staff people have been willing to cross-train, we have nearly quadrupled the number of floater positions in the store, giving pay increases and promotions to almost a quarter of our hourly staff. This crisis, with all its challenges, has provided opportunities for us to try new things, learn about each other, and step up in unanticipated ways.

The same (even if covered) faces you’re used to seeing in the store are adapting together to serve you in new places. And, the Co-op is stronger and better for it.