Whether your employees work from home or are onsite, chances are good that they are experiencing a high degree of burnout. In fact, according to a recent survey, over 40% of both onsite and remote employees have experienced burnout and fatigue during the COVID-19 outbreak. In another study late last spring, 42% of workers indicated that their mental health has declined since the onset of the pandemic. And given how long the pandemic has raged on, it’s likely that this percentage has only increased.
The radical shifts we experienced at work last spring have been replaced by the pandemic grind which has now become our “new normal.” And while people have gotten used to the difficulties of this workplace shift, it doesn’t mean they are coping very well.
Fortunately, good managers can do a lot to help their teams deal with COVID burnout. As a leader or manager, here are 7 critical things you can do right now to help your employees.
1. Share your experience.
Virtually everyone has been challenged by the pandemic and has some degree of difficulty coping. But given how long the pandemic has gone on, it’s easy to assume that people have adjusted and aren’t struggling. As a manager, you can normalize the difficulty by talking about your personal experience. This helps build trust and respect with your direct reports and can also help them speak up about their struggles.
2. Model work-life balance.
During the pandemic, it’s increasingly common to work longer hours or prioritize the needs of others over your own. If you’re managing to prioritize activities like going for a walk or taking some time off, sharing this can help your team recognize the importance of self-care and implement similar healthy behaviors themselves.
3. Check in with each employee regularly.
Making the time to touch base and see how your direct reports are doing can help you identify if they are struggling and what assistance you may be able to offer.
4. Proactively offer as much flexibility as you can.
From flexible hours and schedules to giving employees the option to access a portion of their paychecks before payday to handle unexpected expenses, many employers modifying policies and introducing new benefits to bring down worker stress.
5. Take a customized approach when possible.
Rather than assume what an individual worker may need, ask what support would be most helpful. A remote worker with young children attending remote school will have different needs than an onsite service employee concerned about workplace safety.
6. Err on the side of over-communicating.
The pandemic creates so much uncertainty that is only compounded when there’s uncertainty at work. While you can’t remove all the stress of the unknown, proactively communicating policy changes and organizational updates — and even which deadlines are flexible — is extremely helpful. It’s also critically important to provide information and encourage use of available mental health resources your company provides.
7. Be nimble.
The challenges your workers are facing today may be completely different than they were six or nine months ago. Some of the most effective leaders are shifting their policies and business practices quickly to get out ahead of the pandemic’s impact on their workers. In addition to regular conversations with your direct reports, consider taking the pulse of your workers with regular surveys. This will give you a different view of the situation that can help you revise and adjust accordingly.
While it’s human nature to want to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror of our lives, forward-thinking managers are leveraging the opportunities it presents to establish more trust with their employees and cultivate their skills as empathic leaders.