Importance of work life balance in retail industry

We all get fascinated by the retailers’ generosity when they announce heavy discounts on various festivals.  Be it Diwali or Holi, Independence Day or Republic Day. The retailers especially in the organized sector give us another reason to shop. Shopping has in fact now become an essential part of the celebrations. The sales are also expected to be the maximum during these occasions. So, it acts as a win-win situation for both the retailers and the consumers. But like a coin, even here the situation has another aspect as well. This aspect relates to the employees in the retail sector. We rarely give a thought to the situation of these employees who are compelled to work during festivals. The retailers get blinded by the sales figures and customers get carried away by the heavy discounts and big savings. But the cost for all this is paid by employees who neither get a share of profits nor quality time to spend with family during festivals.

Why employees agree to these work conditions?

With the advent of organized retailing, the scale of retailing operations has increased manifold. From local grocery shops, the meaning of retail has now shifted to big shopping malls and supermarkets. These organized retailers work on 7-days week format and are usually open for long timings everyday offering shopping convenience to their customers. The standard working hours do not apply here. The employees are compelled to work till late hours and even on holidays and festivals. Now the question arises why do employees agree to work like this? Why don’t they rebel? Well, the economics apply here also. The supply of manpower is greater than its demand. Though skilled labor is short in supply, the semi-skilled and unskilled labor are easily available in the retail sector. Such manpower is mostly recruited at the shop-floor as front desk executives. They are responsible for arranging stock into proper shelves, assisting the customers in their purchases, making bills at the clearing counters, and packing the  purchased stuff. They act as the interface between the retailers and their customers. As such, they hold significant position in the organization but they are hardly acknowledged. Instead they are compelled to work at low salaries, poor working conditions, no opportunities for growth, and extremely low job security. However, it is not always that the employees are ordered to be at work during holidays, sometimes they are also convinced by means of bonus, and extra leaves some other time of the year.

Impact on work-life balance in the retail industry

The current retail format of serving customers on festivals and holidays spoils the work-life balance of employees.  Though the workforce in such retail stores is recruited on a shift-basis, the abrupt shift timings and the obligation to work on festivals and holidays hardly leave them with any time to spend with family. The situation gets worse when both spouses are working or when the employee is a single parent or has the responsibility of some elderly at home. Such working formats also act as a barrier for females to opt for retailing as their career. It gets difficult for them to fulfill their domestic and professional responsibilities.

Impact on business and customers in the long-run

If we analyze this situation from a long-run perspective, neither of the retailers and customers are benefited through this. The imbalance in the work and family lives of retail employees leaves a negative impact on retailers’ sales and profits in the long-run. The work-life imbalance reduces employees’ morale and engagement leading to increased incidences of absenteeism, injuries and low productivity. There is also an increase in the attrition rate leading to loss of goodwill of the firm. The affects of all these factors are passed to the customers over long-run and finally there is no profit either for the retailers or the customers. A better situation would be to work into standard formats and enhance employee satisfaction as the customers only advance or postpone their shopping during such festive discounts, the quantity almost remains the same. More purchases during festive offers also reflect lower purchases before and after that. In addition to this, it will also give an opportunity to employ females as the researches prove they usually excel in customer service.


  • Ton, Z. (November 26, 2012). “When You Force Employees to Work on Holidays, Everyone Suffers.” Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:

Ankita Agarwal

Analyst at Project Guru
Ankita is working with the editorial board of Project Guru as a Research Analyst and Writer. With Masters in Commerce and Business Studies, Ankita learned much of what she knows about management through experience. She has previously worked in various financial institutions like Birla Global, HDFC Ltd. and Citi Financial. She is self-motivated and writes for the Knowledge Tank section of Project Guru. She has authored more than 80 articles so far in Human Resources Management, Strategic Management, Finance and Marketing. She likes to pen her thoughts about the latest issues gripping these areas across the world.

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