Handling Pandemic Fatigue As We Move Forward

April 1, 2021 Jamie Notter

I recently did a webinar for Commonwealth Payroll and HR on “Helping Employees Outshine the Effect of Pandemic Fatigue.” This is the second session I’ve done on the topic of pandemic fatigue in the last month or so, and while I get where it’s coming from, I predict the term itself will soon go the way of “new normal.”

The truth is, we are starting to see the other side of this. There is still some uncertainty in our path, obviously, but we can see that destination where, at the very least, humans gather together safely, be that in the office, at conferences, or on beaches. And we’re excited about that, but we are also tired. Tired of all the changes we had to make in the last year, tired of figuring out the new ways of doing activities that we always took for granted (like buying groceries), and tired of the lack of human connection.

Here’s some of the advice I provided in the webinar about how to move forward in this environment:

Acknowledge the impact. The overload we are all feeling will not simply disappear the moment most of us are vaccinated, so I recommend organizations start working NOW on simplifying and streamlining if they want to keep their employees engaged and on top of things. We should also understand that there will be a “long tail” of recovery, as people will be healing from this trauma at different paces, so continue to provide support for employees even if you feel better.

Make some changes permanent. We all made a LOT of adjustments in the last year, and now is the time to look back and see which of those new practices need to become permanently embedded in your organization. Maybe all those stop-gap measures you put in place to make people were sharing information better now that everyone worked from home need to become actual systems and processes that you use all the time even when most of your people come back to the office (also note that I said “most” not “all”).

Embrace employee-centric design. This one’s important. There are some interesting data points in the aggregate culture assessment data we collected in the three years prior to the Pandemic, and one of them is that, in general, employees don’t experience their cultures as ones that really focus on their individual needs or health and welfare. Interestingly, these data points also had the strongest correlation with employee engagement and they were not experienced as consistently as other parts of the culture. So we don’t do it a lot, we don’t don’t do it consistently, yet it drives engagement. Hmmm. I think the pandemic only accelerated this trend, as people WERE able to work whenever and however they wanted (granted, by necessity) and organizations suddenly allowed for exceptions, customizations, and unique solutions. Moving forward, the organizations that figure out employee-centric design are going to do better.

If you want some help designing new ways to support your employees, figuring out which changes to make more permanent, or becoming more employee-centric, please reach out and we’ll help you find some solutions (or if you want us to deliver a similar webinar to your audience!).


Photo by Syed Ahmad

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.