Pandemic-hit Employees Are Tired – How Can Employers Help?
The challenge of balancing work and home life in the last two years has taken its toll and employee energy levels are low
A recent article in Personnel Today describes the harsh realities facing the workplace as we move into yet another phase of the Covid pandemic. After two years of adaptation, challenge and disruption to all parts of our lives, it’s no surprise that people are feeling the strain.
We all know that tired employees are not effective ones, and the last two years have blurred the lines between work and home to the point where the connection between personal and professional lives has never been felt more intensely.
Personnel Today created a Workplace Health Report for 2022, using a survey to find that while every area of wellbeing impacts performance, the stand-out issue is that employees are tired, affecting their ability to work significantly.
Most employees that were surveyed reported their daily energy levels as ‘fatigued’ and over 50% reported that lack of energy affected their productivity.
This tiredness epidemic is not surprising, given the demands that have been placed on employees over the last few years.
They have been asked to adapt and respond in ways that organisations would have never imagined, and for many, the move to hybrid or remote models of working has also taken its toll.
Health and Safety and HR managers need to step up to meet the challenge together, with a focus on wellbeing and mental health high on the agenda.
Leaders and employees need to work together to find ways of maintaining high levels of performance at work, without wearing people out. But how can managers energise their teams?
Reset the work-life balance
Remote working is facilitating an “always-on” culture, with more employees working longer hours, possibly cutting into weekends, working through illness, and struggling to switch off. These issues are further compounded by stresses surrounding workload, which affected 76% of employees in the survey sample.
To address this, managers need to be encouraging people to set clear boundaries between their personal and professional lives.
Leaders are essential to driving this behaviour change. If employees see their leaders setting (and sticking to) healthy boundaries between work and home, then they are more likely to do the same.
If you manage people, get your leadership team involved and start to role model the healthy behaviours you want to see across your entire workforce.
Leaders should also set the right example through actions. This could include only contacting your team during working hours, or encouraging employees to take regular breaks, even when their workload is high.
Work smarter, not harder
In finding answers to the tiredness facing our workforce, there’s a danger of over-simplifying the solutions.
It is far too easy, for instance, to just say that organisations must reduce employee workloads or hire more staff. These options are preferable, but often unrealistic in business terms.
However, we cannot allow ourselves to think that the solution lies in asking employees to work longer or harder, especially as the survey data shows that workload is already the leading cause of work-related stress.
This is completely unviable both from a wellbeing and a performance angle.
Therefore, leaders should try and find ways to increase the capacity of their people to work, without increasing their workload or working hours.
We all want to put the pandemic stresses behind us, and employees are ready to improve their energy levels – they just need the means to make it happen.
For example, employees could be encouraged to prioritise deep work or important meetings at the time of day where energy levels are high (data reveals this time to be 10:22AM), allowing employees to schedule less demanding tasks for when energy levels are naturally lower (3:31PM).
Match means to motivation
The Personnel Today report shows that 94% of professionals are motivated to make health changes, and energy levels emerged as the top health area that employees would like to focus on. Over two-thirds of professionals would like to feel less tired.
Your employees are ready to improve their energy levels – they just need the means to make it happen.
The survey data also highlighted the importance of creating space for your employees to make these positive changes, with 43% citing time as a barrier to engaging with wellbeing.
With this in mind, there is a need for leaders to ensure that wellbeing initiatives fit in around busy schedules and are not viewed as an extra task for employees who are already exhausted and extremely time-poor.
Turn insight into action
The survey data, once analysed, confirmed what we had been learned by HR professionals from working on the ground with organisations.
The picture it painted was one of employees experiencing tiredness and stress, which was diminishing their productivity.
However, it was also seen that the vast majority of employees are motivated to make positive changes to their wellbeing.
There is an opportunity for leaders to capitalise on this motivation, and work with their people to address employee fatigue. By doing so, organisations can reap the rewards that come with happier, healthier and more energised people.