The staff in the Phibsborough post office on Dublin northside had a very stressful time at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as several things happened at once within days of the first lockdown in March 2020.
“The post office in Dorset Street had to close because it was too small for social distancing so we had to take all their business. One staff member called in sick that same day and there was a power cut in the area so we couldn’t pay out our own customers for half a day,” explains Paul Murphy, the manager of An Post office in Phibsborough.
Murphy says his job changed a lot because of new social distancing rules. “I had to become doorman and security man all at the same time, keeping two metres between customers, a maximum of 10-12 customers in the office at one time and monitoring the queues outside,” he explains.
Extra security staff were employed at the post office during the first lockdown from March-June 2020 but after that, the responsibility returned to Murphy.
He says the pandemic was very tough for many of the post office’s older customers. “We opened early, at 8.30am, for older customers. The weather was good in the beginning but it was harder to queue outside in the winter months.”
There was, however, a good community spirit. “We got to know everyone better. People were chattier, like the old days,” says Murphy. The Phibsborough post office staff were acknowledged for their commitment to customers by An Post head office in May 2020 when they received the company “values in practice” award. “It was good to be recognised by our peers for putting customers first,” says Murphy.
The staff also escaped infection from the virus for a year but then in March 2021, two staff members tested positive. “We got staff from other offices and summer staff came in so we managed,” says Murphy.
On a personal level, Murphy says that his commuting time from Santry reduced considerably during the lockdowns. “I used to travel on the bus because of rush hour and it would take about 45 minutes each way, but I drive in now and it takes about 15-20 minutes so I’m saving nearly an hour a day in time.”
He says that staff and customers became much more aware of hygiene during the pandemic. “We have better cleaning processes. We sanitise our hands after handling notes and we wear masks when on the office floor interacting with customers.”
He adds that many of the post office’s older customers and some local office workers have returned in the last while. “The pensioners are coming back out so things are getting more normal. A few have passed away and we’ve had cards from families acknowledging how they liked coming to the post office. For many of them, coming to the post office was part of their social life.”