We all know that the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on many employees’ wellbeing, but Gartner’s Brian Kropp believes longer-term fatigue could be even more of an issue. How can organisations ensure this is not the case as they move to hybrid working?
Why has the pandemic and remote working resulted in such high levels of fatigue?
The pandemic has been a disaster for employee fatigue and general wellness. Our research has revealed that UK employees have been 62% more likely to see an increase in the length of their day and that 42% feel emotionally drained from their work.
At the start of the pandemic, workers were forced to adapt to remote working conditions at the same time as dealing with fear and anxiety about the impact of Covid-19. This resulted in unprecedented change fatigue that employees have struggled to recover from.
On top of that, employees have spent over a year working in conditions unsuitable for the remote world. Businesses have applied office-based practices such as nine to five core hours and regular meetings to the remote world and inadvertently exacerbated fatigue.
Are we seeing levels of fatigue easing as the UK emerges from lockdown restrictions?
Alarmingly, we are seeing fatigue levels continuing to increase in the UK despite the lifting of lockdown restrictions, and this is because employees are going through a new period of change, that is the shift to hybrid working.
Employees – many of whom still feel burnt out from the events of the last year – are now trying to get used to being back in an office and adapt to new working structures. And we must remember that worries about Covid-19 related health and financial risks have not gone away.
Our recent workforce resilience survey reveals 29% of employees have a lower level of change receptivity due to the pandemic, which is evidence of the long journey ahead for businesses when it comes to tackling fatigue.
What impact will hybrid working have on employee fatigue?
The shift to hybrid working is an inflection point in the history of the work, and businesses need to reimagine typical workplace structures and norms to successfully adapt. If businesses fail to adapt, then the nature of hybrid work could be devastating for employee fatigue.
Take for example, the need to collaborate with colleagues working both remotely and on-site. There is a risk that employees will have to communicate even more via instant messaging platforms to engage colleagues on a task, which will increase digital distraction.
Another example is the ability to create work-life balance. If there is uncertainty over which days of the week staff are required to work in the office, or indeed the possibility that staff could be called into the office last minute, then it may become difficult for employees to create effective routines for their home lives.
When we asked HR leaders about their worries for the hybrid work era, 96% reported concerns about employee wellbeing and 93% feared employee burnout. Incidentally, this was significantly higher than concerns related to business performance.
What can businesses do to prevent employee fatigue in the future?
To ensure employee fatigue isn’t a problem that outlasts the pandemic, businesses and HR teams must lead in the creation of a hybrid model that champions flexibility, creates certainty, reduces digital distraction and addresses the always-on mindset.
The first step is to identify and remove office-centric processes that have no value to the hybrid world and are therefore creating unnecessary fatigue. One example is the culture of meetings, which for some bizarre reason has continued to grow over years despite the increase in digital communication tools.
The first step is to identify and remove office-centric processes that have no value to the hybrid world and are therefore creating unnecessary fatigue.”
The next step is to create a hybrid work philosophy and train employees on how to operate effectively within its parameters. Previously, employees tended to be left to manage their own workloads and mental capacity, but this needs to change as the line between home and working lives becomes increasingly blurred.
Finally, businesses need to focus on improving employee life experiences. Managers need to build deeper connections with their employees and help the organisation make a positive impact on their personal lives. Our research shows that if an individual feels cared for by their employer, they are happier, more engaged and less prone to fatigue.
What approaches are businesses taking to tackle fatigue?
Leading organisations are implementing designated workdays with no meetings or emails to scale back on digital exposure, decrease employee burnout, and increase productivity. Others are offering paid ‘mental wellness’ days off to give employees the opportunity to recover whilst removing the stigma associated with mental health in workplace.