As Pandemic Fatigue Sets in at Work, Employers Try to Help

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Written by SciTechNerds

February 14, 2021

Individuals are drained. Between a worldwide pandemic, financial disaster, social unrest, and political upheaval, the previous year has been physically and emotionally draining for almost everybody, and maybe most for essential workers.

Across industries, staff struggling with pandemic fatigue are dealing with burnout more than ever. For leaders, keeping these employees engaged and motivated is a problem in itself. Whereas some leaders are turning to incentives like gift cards and money to assist support employees, others are taking a softer strategy, investing in relationships and specializing in office communication.

Cash Talks

When the pandemic started, the hospitality industry fell off a cliff, says Liz Neumark, founder and CEO of Great Performances, a catering firm in New York City. She knew keeping everybody employed can be troublesome till her business could find another source of revenue apart from events, which eventually came in the form of getting  meals for essential workers and folks unable to quarantine at home. Whereas a few of her workers, such as those in sales or event production, noticed wage reductions, chefs, kitchen staff, and different workers making meals for essential workers kept their full salaries and received help with transportation as well.

The founders of P. Terry’s, an Austin, Texas-based fast-food restaurant chain, give workers gift cards and money to assist pay for groceries and provide them interest-free loans. In addition they incentivize workers to take part in community and civic causes, including paying hourly wages for volunteer work.

Justin Spannuth, chief operating officer of Unique Snacks, a sixth-generation, family-operated hard pretzel maker in Reading, Pennsylvania, increased hourly wages by $2 for all 85 of his workers. The company additionally employed further short-term workers to supply a backup workforce. Spannuth says the move helped persuade workers with possible symptoms to remain at home by easing the guilt that workers can have about not coming in and potentially increasing the workload on their colleagues.

“The last thing we wanted our employees to do was get worn out from working too many hours and then have their immune system compromised because of it,” says Spannuth.

Helping Employees Connect Together

Andrea Ahern, vice president of Mid Florida Material Handling, a material handling firm in Orlando, Florida, says it was troublesome to maintain morale up when the business was clearly struggling; workers have been unsure in regards to the firm’s future, and their very own. To  ease the stress, the company held a wide array of picnic-style meals within the company’s parking lot. It was a light-weight distraction that also followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Now, she says, morale has began to rise.

“With the release of the vaccine and the so-called ‘light at the end of the tunnel,’ we’re starting to see the industry get a lift in activity, and associates feel good when they know their jobs aren’t at risk. However, it wasn’t always this way.”

These sorts of occasions can, in fact, also take place virtually. Company leaders throughout industries are encouraging employees to treat Zoom as a digital water cooler. However whereas casual on-line gatherings after work might help colleagues preserve friendly relationships, they’ll additionally contribute to “Zoom fatigue”–the drained feeling that comes after a long day of video calls, which frequently require extra focus than in-person conferences.

Matt McCambridge, co-founder and CEO of Eden Health, a primary/collaborative care practice based in New York, says whereas his teams hold regular virtual water coolers, they change it up. For instance, the company hosted an interactive “dueling pianos” virtual event over the holidays, in addition to a magic show.

Better Communication From the Top Brass

Communicating support work-life balance at a time when many people are distant and dealing with trauma is critical. Neumark notes that when her catering firm was pivoting and in the process of providing hundreds, if not 1000’s, of meals, the crew was relying totally on sheer adrenaline. Months later, now that the novelty is gone and fatigue has fully set in, the boundaries she set are crucial.

One rule, for instance, is weekends off, unless there’s an urgent, unavoidable request. “The weeks are still so intense, and people need their private time right now,” says Neumark.

It is important that leaders understand the problems their workers may be dealing with and never attempt to gloss over them, says Dr. Benjamin F. Miller, a psychologist and chief strategy officer of Well Being Trust, a foundation aimed toward advancing psychological and social well being. “When your boss is pretending that everything is OK, it doesn’t create a conducive work environment for someone to talk about having a bad day,” says Miller. That’s one reason virtual water coolers often fail, he notes. Whereas they’re nice at getting folks collectively, there’s little benefit if people can’t speak openly and honestly.

It is also OK to inform workers that you, as a frontrunner, are not having an easy time. Displaying vulnerability would not present weakness, Miller adds. You are setting an example that shows that it is OK to be honest and acknowledge that not everybody will not be having the best time. If you aren’t conscious that somebody is in a crisis, he says, you could lose the chance to reach out to that individual and assist.

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