Initially, when there was a change in the role of warehouse workers, no one imagined what the next few months would hold. Today’s future appears to be very different from what it was at the start of 2020. Thinking about the impact of the corona virus pandemic and the new standards that came with it, we spent the last few months researching how warehouse roles have evolved and how their nature of work is going to change.
After speaking with scores of customers in recent weeks, it’s evident that the epidemic has created two stark realities: those battling to keep the lights on and those experiencing unprecedented business growth. Nonetheless, all groups face the same difficulties in figuring out how to adjust to our “new normal.” We’ve never seen anything like it in my many years in the industry, and neither have they.
The Essential Warehouse Worker
For starters, one of the most unexpected shifts in recent months is that, in many cases, warehouse workers, like first responders, nurses, surgeons, and others, have been acknowledged as “vital.” These brave and dedicated women and men, other newly minted key workers in grocery shops, food processing plants, and parcel delivery, played a critical role in keeping our civilization running when so many cities, counties, and states were on lockdown.
Of course, any distributor who has long recognized that their warehouse staff is the most crucial asset in assuring delighted customers and continued business success is well aware of this. However, it’s been fascinating to observe as millions of people suddenly understand and appreciate the work that goes into allowing us to browse, click, buy, and stockpile hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and toilet paper from the comfort and safety of our own homes.
According to recent Glassdoor research, while tens of millions of people faced furloughs and layoffs, crucial warehouse roles were among those in high demand. In recent weeks, several critical distribution jobs, such as warehouse manager, forklift operator, warehouse worker, and material handler, have been near the top of the most in-demand vocations.
Another Amazon effect
Amazon, ever the disruptor, made headlines during the pandemic by recruiting 175,000 new fulfillment and delivery workers to meet with the increased demand as millions of people stayed at home. To keep workers picking, packing, and shipping corporation spent $800 million in higher compensation and bonuses. The corporation announced a $500 million one-time incentive to front-line staff for their efforts in June last year. Even if you’re not in a business competition with Amazon, you’re very certainly in a labor competition with them.
While Amazon has gotten a poor name (and legal complaints) for how it treats some warehouse workers, there’s no doubting that the firm has the resources, technology, and tools to protect and monitor its workers’ health and safety. Not only does Amazon intend to test fulfillment workers for COVID-19 regularly, but it has also stated that it is working to establish diagnostic labs to examine test findings.
These standards are unattainable for any distributor who isn’t Amazon.
Putting employees safety first
What can distributors do to protect their warehouse workers and show that they care about their safety?
Distributors should first teach their personnel new cleaning or disinfection processes and appropriate federal and state health regulations. This will almost certainly include revising the company’s employee handbook, ensuring that its employees have access to the necessary personal protective equipment to keep them safe on the job.
Most warehouse managers are used to keeping track of accidents and potential safety hazards in their facilities. Managers are expected to increase their monitoring of employee health and wellbeing to include sick leave and other exposure hazards, possibly being accountable for contact tracing if symptoms indicate a potential outbreak at work. While these may not have been part of their previous responsibilities, this may become the new normal in warehouses.
These measures by distributors are likely to promote trust and loyalty among their staff, even though they are both costly and time-consuming.
Technology has a role to play
These new health and safety rules are causing warehouse managers problems and uncertainty, according to our interviews with distributors. However, they’ll probably discover that some of the tried-and-true characteristics of a warehouse management system (WMS) are quite beneficial in this new normal. Many distributors that are re-evaluating their warehouse area to maintain proper social separation and reduce staff contact will be relieved by this.
The new normal that we’re living in right now is likely to last for a long time. People are more comfortable than ever before conducting business in a more minimalistic sense that reduces their risks, as the number of new instances of COVID-19 continues to climb while towns, counties, and states attempt to reopen. As a result, demand for eCommerce will continue to grow, putting extra strain on distributors while also providing new opportunities.
It will be on to these companies to prepare to meet this demand while also safeguarding the health and safety of their vital warehouse workers.
RSS’s extensive experience in the temporary labor staffing industry has enabled us to develop a large pool of KNOWN assets that we KNOW will be able to complete the job. This allows RSS to provide the same staff to the customer every day, to become familiar with the routes, products, and protocols, resulting in increased efficiency. Contact us for better staffing at your warehouse.