Woolworths Fernvale Fresh manager Steven Ihle. PHOTO: ALI KUCHEL
Woolworths Fernvale Fresh manager Steven Ihle. PHOTO: ALI KUCHEL

Heroes of the pandemic: Steven’s rise to essential worker

THERE are multiple departments in a supermarket, but the coronavirus pandemic has brought the Woolworths Fernvale team closer together.

For Steven Ihle, the Fresh manager, the sudden shift into the role of an essential worker has meant putting everything aside to focus purely on the customers.

"It's been quite surreal," he said.

"It's been very busy, but it's also been rewarding to see the importance of what we do in the community - getting food into our customers' trolleys so they can get it on to their kitchen table."

Steven began his career at Woolworths almost 13 years ago in a casual role, filling produce.

Today, he is responsible for the deli, seafood, milk and meat products sections, and heads up a team of 14 at the Fernvale store.

"We have a really positive team and we're united in doing what we can to serve our community," he said.

"I think being able to offer good customer service really helps us make a difference in the day-to-day lives of our customers."

Steven said he felt comfortable in the store and minimising the spread of coronavirus with the introduction of new procedures to protect both staff and shoppers.

"We've got social distancing guides and markers on the floor, check-out screens, alcohol wipes to disinfect trolleys and baskets and additional daily deep cleaning," he said.

"Everyone needs to take personal responsibility for this as well."

He said staff, if feeling unwell, were asked to stay away from work, and they asked customers to do the same.

"We are all in this together," he said.

He understood customer frustrations when it came to limited stock supplies.

"We're doing all we can to improve product availability and it is getting better. We've also been overwhelmed by the many words of support and encouragement," he said.

When he's not at work, Steven is the captain of the A-Grade North Ipswich field hockey team.

"It's a shame we can't play right now. I'm looking forward to starting back up on the other side of this crisis."

Do you know someone who has become a frontline essential worker? Let us know by emailing ali.kuchel@gattonstar.com.au