The Pandemic Carries On
As we headed into the 8th, 9th, then 10th month of this global pandemic, I couldn't help but notice a bit of a shift among my co-workers and friends. Many people’s moods seemed even lower than before. Everyone was ‘Zoomed out, non-essential meetings and virtual Happy Hours began to fade. Mental health check-ins replaced chit-chats. It seemed as if intense fatigue was setting in for just about everyone. The first mentions of ‘pandemic fatigue’ began to make their way into my lexicon in fall of last year. And now, it seemed as if new levels of this fatigue were setting in.
The psychological impact of this pandemic on those most directly affected (those infected with the virus, those who have lost loved ones, those with sick loved ones, healthcare workers, frontline workers, and folks who have lost their jobs, etc.) is acute and undeniable. But the more subtle impact on those of us who are fortunate enough to keep a version of our pre-pandemic lives intact is a bit more difficult to pinpoint.
I, like many of my colleagues and family members, have been incredibly fortunate. We’re healthy and employed, which in this day and age feels like a miracle. But pandemic fatigue is impactful for us too.
According to research from late summer 2020, since the pandemic began, 42% of global employees reported experiencing a decline in their mental health. Before the pandemic, there were already studies on the ‘isolation epidemic’ we were facing. As you might imagine, this has only exacerbated as the pandemic continues, and most of us are more isolated than ever.
As I work in recruiting, when confronted with cultural shifts or national or global events, it doesn’t take long for me to think, “how does this impact the workplace?”. But this time, my thoughts shifted to “how does the workplace impact this?”.
I’ve heard some real horror stories about friends being forced back into offices where no safeguards were taking place and leadership appears to have their heads in the sand, attempting to run their organizations as if nothing has changed. And, of course, some of my friends have had great stories about being supported and respected by their bosses and organizations.
I wanted to know what employers can do to mitigate the real, negative impacts on their employees of the prolonged pandemic. So I sat down, virtually, with Sarah Buino LCSW, RDDP, CADC, CDWF therapist, president, and founder of Head/ Heart Therapy and collaborated with Holistic for data to look for trends.
What can employers do to help?
Communicate to employees that their health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance to you, and then follow that sentiment with aligning actions
If it is feasible to allow your employees to work from home, allow them to do so
Do not expect productivity to stay the same or increase
Don’t hold your employees to pre-pandemic levels of engagement
Encourage employees to take mental health days
If your organization doesn’t have an EAP program, consider establishing one. Make sure employees know about it
Make sure you are taking care of your own mental health and seeking help if you need it
Reimburse employees for home office expenses and tech upgrades
Clearly communicate expectations and how they may have changed/ be changing
Roll with the punches; adapt your strategies, numbers, and goals to the reality of what is happening and our changing environment
Consider circulating some work from home best practices to give ideas of how employees can make do with their new normal work
“I understand both as an employee and a business owner the pressures on both sides- I hear the struggle from people trying to keep up. People are hurting so much right now- economic stress, internal depression or isolation, and then not recognizing that the person in front of you is human and doing the best they can... If bosses focus first on the relationship before anything else, they’ll build more co-collaboration. When you have an employee that is not meeting expectations- what is happening for them, talk to them and see if accommodations need to be made. There’s a shared experience here - we’re both going through trauma.”
- Sarah Buino