At the start of the pandemic, everyone from healthcare workers to celebrities echoed sentiments of “We’re all in this together”. Now, nearly two years later, there doesn’t seem to be the same sentiment of togetherness.
Case numbers are the highest they’ve ever been, despite nearly 83% of the eligible population in Canada having received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, businesses and individuals are still facing restrictions, and people are tired—not just “sick of this” tired, but truly exhausted, beat down, and burnt out.
According to a recent Gallup report, 67% of employees are experiencing burnout, in what they deem “an employee burnout crisis”. Everyone is experiencing COVID fatigue to some degree—and no, not fatigue as a symptom of COVID. HR Zone defines COVID fatigue as “the feeling of exhaustion and exasperation from constantly having to keep up with changing regulations and demands brought about by the pandemic”, a feeling that “manifests itself in different ways”.
Not only is COVID fatigue generally (for lack of a better word) a bummer, but it’s also dangerous. People experiencing COVID fatigue are less likely to continue to follow regulations, putting themselves and others at risk. Not only that, but feeling burnout can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation.
Employers must work hard to support their employees and help them avoid—or navigate—COVID fatigue in the workplace.
Besides the fact that COVID fatigue in the workplace is bad for morale, burnt out employees are likely costing your organization more than you realize. Gallup writes that burnt out employees are far more disengaged and “63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job”. Gallup also writes that even if employees are staying with your organization, those who are burnt out “typically have 13% lower confidence in their performance and are half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager”.
Here are some ways that you can combat COVID fatigue in the workplace:
- Have open and honest conversations about where everyone’s at. Encourage leaders to connect with their direct reports, not just to check in on key metrics but also to touch base on employee mental health.
- Continue having conversations about growth, even if growth isn’t possible right now. Employees need to be assured that growth is in their future to avoid feeling stuck in one place. Have conversations about training opportunities, ways that they can improve their skills, and always keep them looped into project results that they’ve contributed to.
- Look for opportunities to lighten employees’ workloads, even if that just means shifting responsibilities and priorities around so that your people are able to spend more time on tasks they enjoy.
- Complete employee engagement surveys. This will offer your organization the chance to find and address the root causes of burnout.
- Allow for flexibility throughout the day. Give employees the power to create their own schedules, where they can step away from their work as needed and take care of other tasks, go for a walk, and also choose which work to focus on when appropriate.
- Keep people feeling connected. Continue hosting regular check-ins, happy hours, team meetings, etc. that allow people to connect with one another, even if it’s from a distance.
Addressing COVID fatigue in the workplace isn’t about trying to solve it—people are going to feel worn out no matter how supportive you are—but rather, it’s about showing employees that you care about their wellbeing and are there for them if they need extra support. Despite the continued isolation, we are all in this together.