As the country and our businesses continue trudging along and hope that vaccines will pave the way out of the COVID-19 crisis, employers are increasingly seeing the effects of pandemic fatigue among their workers.
The same issues people are grappling with in their personal lives — exhaustion with social distancing and masking, a sense of loss of community and camaraderie, sadness over lost loved ones — are also spilling over into workplaces and affecting job performance.
Pandemic fatigue can manifest itself in noticeable changes in employees’ mood or demeanor and result in an inability to concentrate due to anxiety and sleeplessness.
And now that vaccines are being administered at a quickening pace and word is that we may be able to soon resume normal activities, people have a sense of unbridled excitement. It’s like how kids feel when they’ve had a year of school and summer vacation is right around the corner.
It’s important for all employers to stay the course on their safety protocols, while at the same time acknowledging what their employees are going through. Keep requiring mask-wearing and social distancing.
Pandemic fatigue is real and can result in:
Employee disengagement — This can lead to poor productivity and mistakes in their work.
Employee conflicts — Many people are stressed and exhausted, which can lead to arguments and irritation with co-workers. It can also happen if one employee doesn’t take COVID-19 precautions seriously, wearing a mask below their nose or chin (or not at all) and angering a co-worker who is serious about safety.
Failing to observe social distancing rules of being 6 feet apart can also result in arguments between co-workers.
Lost concentration — Pandemic fatigue can also lead to employees not focusing well on their jobs and safety regimens. This can result in workplace accidents.
What you can do
There are steps you can take to combat pandemic fatigue in the workplace, but the first and foremost thing you should do is consistently enforce safety rules and make sure that COVID-19 protocols should be part and parcel of the rest of your safety procedures.
You should do this by incentivizing good safety behavior, and rewarding that good behavior.
But you must also be cognizant of the emotional toll the pandemic has had on your workers. You can do this by boosting morale through:
Giving compliments — Provide positive feedback when merited, even for smaller achievements. Compliments go a long way these days due to the stress people have been through.
Showing compassion — Be consistent in your treatment of staff and consider checking in with employees to ensure that they are doing well. Ask how they’ve been faring and show empathy and sympathy for the issues they may be wrestling with.
Remember, some of your employees may have family that has succumbed to the virus or may be currently battling it.
Being calm and patient — It’s important that management shows calm and measured leadership, which can reassure the ranks that things aren’t so bad. Also, if management and supervisors can be patient when workers are dealing with stress, it can in turn tamp down any stress building among staff.
Exuding confidence — Part of being a steady and calming force includes expressing confidence that better times are ahead. This too can help your employees feel more relaxed about the future. Supervisors and managers should also express confidence in and appreciation for the employee’s individual commitment to stay the course.
The final word
These are tough times for most everyone, and for many people their work and personal lives have been upended and replaced with little to no social activity and feelings of isolation and frustration.
By providing steady leadership, continuing to enforce safety protocols and paying attention to the struggles your staff are facing, you can help any workers dealing with pandemic fatigue to better weather the storm that we may soon be exiting.