When the country went into lockdown, many people realised that they wouldn’t be able to work during this time. But at the same time, supermarkets needed more staff than ever to make deliveries and keep shelves stocked for people to buy what they needed.
Some people have put their normal job on hold to help out.
One of those was 27-year-old Wil Law. Before the pandemic, he worked for John Lewis and Partners in Leeds as a home design stylist.
But with stores shut, he took up a role at Waitrose (which is in the same group as John Lewis) in Meanwood, just outside Leeds. He started stacking shelves, working on the tills and even did a driving test to be able to drive the delivery vans to customers.
After a few weeks helping out, he went back to his normal job, working on virtual home styling appointments from home. For My Quarantine Routine, he explains how he spent 4 April – his last day at Waitrose.
I arrive at Waitrose – a beautiful, sunny day, and working in Meanwood is especially nice because it has huge windows where the light floods in, so I make the most of that when traveling the escalator.
First job is to check in, get the apron and gloves on, and then see what jobs need doing for the day. To begin with, like most days, it’s supporting with the ambient delivery. I take a cage full of ingredients like Miso Paste and Dashi, which feels like a win because the world food ingredients is always my favourite supermarket aisle. This keeps me busy for few hours.
After I’ve worked this cage, a manager asks me and Amelia, my colleague and right hand woman in home design who I’ve been lucky enough to keep working with, if we’ll put together some care packages for the vulnerable in the Leeds community. We grab a trolley each and spend time pulling some daily essentials, and of course throw in some little treats too.
Midway through this we see one of Amelia’s home design customers who is a doctor and has come shopping after a night shift. After a little chat at a distance, we decide to gift her a bottle of wine, which makes her a tad emotional.
It’s lunchtime already. Waitrose has been offering all partners free cooked lunches during this time and they’re amazing. I’ve been vegan for four years, and the guys in Meanwood have been so accommodating with that too so, once again, I feel well looked after.
After lunch Amelia goes off to deliver some of the care packages, but I have to step back into home design mode briefly as I have a call about a new project for John Lewis – virtual styling appointments, working from home, which starts on Monday. I’m one of ten partners chosen to offer these appointments. I tuck myself into a cleaning cupboard in the back, and we chat about the ins and outs of this new service.
Once the call is over, I head back on to the shop floor to support again with shelf stacking and ‘facing up’, which is the technical term for making the store look presentable. Midway through this, I get asked if I can marshall the queues coming into the store – a one person out, one person in policy, to keep it a safe shopping space. I do this for half an hour, and have some lovely interactions with shoppers during this time.
After queue control, Amelia is back and we have a quick catch up and then we’re asked to deliver a load of food which Meanwood has chosen to donate to a local project, helping feed the community.
A few weeks ago I took a test to drive the big Waitrose delivery vans, so I could support deliveries during high demand, and it’s time to get back behind the wheel again.
I put on my high-vis, grab the keys and head out to do the drop. Never in my life did I imagine myself driving a vehicle this size and I’m pretty proud to say that I’ve become quite confident with it.
Having said that, the reverse parking back in the Waitrose car park on my return becomes a bit of a struggle, and I have to get one of the pros to manoeuvre it back into place.
By the time we’re back in store, it’s almost time to clock off, which feels a bit weird on this occasion because I know it’s my last time working here. It’s only been a few weeks, but it feels like a new norm, and I’ll be sad to not see the faces I’m used to seeing every day, especially Amelia who I’m now not going to see for some time.
On my way out, I manage to squeeze in a shop and treat myself to a new favourite, the Waitrose No.1 Rye and Wheat Dark Sourdough Bread.