As workplaces manage the gradual return to physical working, employers need to be recognising, and supporting, ‘Covid fatigue’ that may have built up over the past year-and-a-half, both among employees and employers. Brett Hill outlines ways to minimise these pandemic-related feelings of exhaustion and exasperation.
Fed up with restrictions, isolation, cancelled holidays, not being able to make plans, everyone has suffered through the pandemic, quite aside from those who have been hit by the virus itself.
Add to this the particular challenges for employees and their employers, such as furlough ending, return to work, cancelled orders, and it is not surprising that companies and staff are suffering from ‘Covid fatigue’.
Covid fatigue is a phrase we at Towergate Health and Protection have coined to explain the way many of us are currently feeling.
It covers the feeling of exhaustion and exasperation from constantly having to keep up with changing regulations and demands brought about by the pandemic.
Both employers and employees are likely to currently be suffering the effects of Covid fatigue but this manifests itself in different ways.
Employees suffering from Covid fatigue
There are many ways in which employees may be suffering from Covid fatigue. It could be in their home life, with unwell friends and family, self-isolation, cancelled plans, social remoteness.
Or it could be in their working life, from working from home, furlough and the anxiety of returning to the office.
Employers suffering from Covid fatigue
Employers too, face all the same difficulties in their home lives as their employees, but they are also shouldering a great deal of responsibility, from having to provide moral support to struggling staff through to dealing with the business and economic fall-out of the pandemic.
It should not be forgotten that employers, too, may find working from home a strain and may also have apprehension over the return to the office.
Here, then, are 10 steps we argue employers can take to minimise Covid fatigue and ease the return to work over the coming weeks and months:
- Be aware of Covid fatigue and the strain it may have put on employees.
- Understand employee needs – ask them how they are feeling and what support they would find useful.
- Be aware that Covid fatigue can impact employers as much as it affects staff.
- Make the return to work a gradual transition.
- Offer mental health support.
- Deliver mental health training so that individuals can help themselves and also support colleagues.
- Make use of the support available from existing employee benefits provision. For example, employee assistance programmes, private medical insurance and group risk policies can provide support for physical, mental and financial health.
- Take advantage of new support that has been developed and enhanced since the pandemic – keep on top of advances in wellbeing, such as virtual counselling and physio.
- Create physical and or virtual social occasions to restore morale.
- Be open and available to talk and listen.
It has been a long and difficult path throughout the pandemic. Everyone talks about 2020 being a terrible year but we are now three-quarters of the way through 2021 and have certainly not seen the back of Covid yet.
Employers need to be understanding of their employees’ concerns, and recognise Covid fatigue among staff but also go easy on themselves.
Mental and physical health issues do not differentiate between management levels and we all need to look after ourselves to be able to look after others around us.