Rising Above Pandemic Fatigue and Preventing Pandemic Burn-out in the Workplace

March 19, 2021


Pandemic Fatigue

Major shifts in both life and work since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis have many employees struggling to adjust to the new “normal.” It’s no wonder employees are feeling the effects of “pandemic fatigue” and “pandemic burn-out” in the workplace. With emergency closures, stay-at-home orders, and social distancing requirements, many employees are grappling with the challenges of working remotely, such as the fragmented focus that comes from a lack of conventional workday structure. Some employees are battling unusually long hours or changes to their workload. Others are simultaneously tasked with homeschooling duties, left to troubleshoot the optimal distraction for a five-year-old during a virtual meeting.

And all of this is occurring amid fears of contracting the virus, whether it be themselves or a loved one, and concerns of an uncertain economy, general societal angst, and unrivaled challenges. A year and a month ago, who would have guessed we’d be scared of elevators and door handles or struggling to find toilet paper and cleaning products on grocery store shelves?

What are pandemic fatigue and pandemic burn-out?

Employees with pandemic fatigue may experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritation, anger, trouble concentrating, or lack of motivation. These symptoms affect your employees’ overall health, mental health, and morale, which can affect their productivity and engagement in the workplace.

Pandemic fatigue can lead an employee to become completely overwhelmed, lose optimism or hope for the future, or experience pandemic burn-out. According to the World Health Organization, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1. feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2. increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3. reduced professional efficacy.”

Employers need to implement measures to help meet the changing needs of their employees, rise above pandemic fatigue, and prevent pandemic burn-out in the workplace.

Encourage your employees to communicate with you.

Ensure your employees understand they can talk to their supervisors and HR about their concerns. A survey conducted by FlexJobs and Mental Health America found that 40% of their respondents said they had experienced pandemic-related burn-out, but only 21% said they were able to have open, productive conversations with HR about solutions to their burn-out. Let your employees know what you are doing to keep them safe.

Encourage your employees to communicate with each other.

Being connected and involved can significantly reduce an employee’s anxiety.

The changes in your employees’ every-day lives, from the significant to the seemingly minor, can have a cumulative effect. A social network or outlet for employees to share their experiences with one another can be productive and make the changes feel less isolating. Employee A, for example, may inquire if he/she is alone in implementing a self-imposed protocol whereby packages must “decontaminate” in the mudroom before they come inside. Employee B may share his/her insight on how chewing mint gum while wearing a mask makes your face feel cooler if it’s hot out. Shared experiences can create community.

Provide your employees resources.

Employers should also proactively offer training sessions, start awareness campaigns, or provide informational resources on matters such as work/life balance, reducing work stress, or maintaining a safe and health-supportive work environment. The CDC has resources available that employers may consider providing their employees, such as tips for improving sleep during difficult times and coping with stress. Consider implementing new wellness programs or challenges to encourage improving your employee’s holistic health.

Empower your employees through leadership and innovation.

Leaders have to set employee expectations, but they should also lead by example. This helps eliminate mixed messages. And try to eliminate unnecessary red tape to promote employee self-efficacy. If employees are waiting for leaders to make decisions they can make on their own, push the responsibility for the decision to the employee.

You may need to implement new technologies ahead of schedule. Employers need to ensure they provide employees with the tools they need to perform their jobs effectively, whether they are working from home or in the office.

Be flexible and compassionate.

According to the same Flexjobs and Mental Health America survey, 56% of respondents said that having flexibility in their workday was the top way their workplace could better support them. Employers today are learning to exercise a higher level of compassion. Your employees have been through a lot, so more flexibility in hours or workload may be warranted, even if it requires significant overall adjustments to your resources.

Join us for a webinar!

Commonwealth Payroll & HR, in partnership with PROPEL, will expand on this topic in our upcoming webinar, Helping Your Employees Outshine Pandemic Fatigue.

Register today to join us on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, from 1:00-2:00 PM EST.

PROPEL Co-founder and Growth Strategist, Jamie Notter, will identify the current causes and symptoms of today’s “pandemic fatigue” and offer concrete suggestions for meeting the needs of employees in both the short and long term in order to increase engagement and success.

Contact Commonwealth Payroll & HR

As you navigate the new “normal,” let the professionals at Commonwealth answer your questions; provide you with best practices; help with management and HR personnel training; assist with policy, handbook, and other documented updates; and implement the appropriate procedures. Contact us today to discuss your HR and payroll needs.


*The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information is for general informational purposes only. Information in this article may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. This article contains links to other third-party websites provided only for the convenience of the reader.

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