COVID-19, and its prolonged aftermath, is here for the foreseeable future. So how do you manage pandemic related psychological fatigue?
Entering the third month of lock-down in Sydney, has meant that I have come to accept that COVID-19 is here to stay. Whilst it has allowed for me to spend more time in my own space and work more flexibly, it has also meant I haven’t been able to see family and friends.
Recently engaged, I thought my first few months of my newly engaged life would be spent visiting venues, tasting cakes and dress shopping. Instead, I have been doing virtual venue tours, having Zoom meetings with vendors, and shopping online. Due to COVID, I haven’t had a chance to celebrate my engagement with family and friends. Quite a few people don’t even know we are engaged. However, the hardest part of lockdown has been the uncertainty of it all – the constant questions of when the world would open back up.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a hard impact on those in long term lockdown. I can relate to the mental fatigue the uncertainty has placed on those around me. Not only that, but I can also only imagine the loneliness and hopelessness felt by many who are stuck in small houses or apartments, alone, and those who have been impacted financially, either through loss of work or restrictions not allowing them to go to work.
These accumulating feelings of prolonged uncertainty and rapid change has had a significant impact on mental health.
After the first month of lockdown in Sydney, I was personally feeling more tired and having more frequent headaches. These were signs of pandemic fatigue that I had not realised in myself.
Whilst it is important to be able to identify signs of fatigue in yourself, it is important to also recognise the signs in others and your team. Some symptoms may be harder to see, however, these are common symptoms of psychological fatigue that may be more visible:
- Exhaustion including physical, cognitive, and emotional
- Failing to meet deadlines
- Cynicism towards others
- Distancing psychologically from work
- Lower motivation and more absences
- Performing work duties more slowly.
Understand the root cause
Before jumping into a solution, it is always important to listen and understand the cause of fatigue. Reach out, connect and have a conversation about wellbeing. This conversation is aimed at asking questions to understand the reason for fatigue without making assumptions regarding the problems.
Whilst we may know COVID-19 is a contributing factor, what is actually the root of the fatigue?
As a manager, HR professional, or colleague, what can you do to support and protect others?
As an individual, it may feel like a challenge to support others especially when you are also feeling fatigued. It is important to “practice what you preach” and look after yourself. As they would say during the safety demonstrations on an airplane, put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.
- Make downtime a priority. It is important for you to be able to switch off, and this sets a good example for others.
- Have genuine connections and relationships with others. Reach out to your family and friends. (I have been speaking more to my mother during this pandemic than when I was living at home!)
- Self-care – which includes eating healthy, exercising and getting plenty of sleep
- Practice mindfulness and meditation. Follow along via YouTube or via an app, such as Headspace or Calm.
Now that you have taken care of yourself, what can you do with your team?
- Created a sense of belonging and inclusion through shared values and connections. Working in a hybrid model and feeling isolated at home is a common reason for people feeling fatigued. A simple strategy is to ensure there is a sense of connection. Explore how to encourage continual engagement from your team. Perhaps engage in a team-building workshop to explore your teams’ values and motivations.
- Build mental resilience with your team. Faced with the onslaught of COVID news and uncertainty, resilience is important to help people deal with and manage the emotional and mental stress they are experiencing. Consider resilience training with your team.
- Explore flexible working arrangements with your team. A number of people are working from home or in a hybrid model, however, flexibility goes beyond where you are working. Perhaps consider the flexibility of start and finish times. Let your team dictate how they want to work and create boundaries.
- Provide additional support. Nike in the US has joined Bumble in offering their employees extra paid time off during the pandemic. Consider some alternatives to how you can support your team by allowing them to switch off and reset.
There not be a perfect solution or quick fix for your team, however, taking the first step to make a change and do something is better than doing nothing at all. OPRA Psychology Group is here to support you and your team. Feel free to reach out to us, even if it is just for a chat about what you can be doing for yourself or for your team. We can support you with workshops and programs, or direct you to someone who can.