If you’ve been counting down the days till 2021 in hope that things will change once that clock strikes twelve, you’re not alone. Almost half of surveyed Singaporeans feel like the outbreak of COVID-19 has lasted a lot longer than they anticipated, with another 44% tired of all the rules and regulations placed to curb its spread.
With no guarantee that things will change in the near future or even as Phase 3 rolls around, employers need to start thinking about how to manage burnout and pandemic fatigue at work.
Zoom isn’t everything
At first, the novelty was exciting. No packed trains on your commute, the possibility of wearing sweatpants all day, spending more time with your family at home...but with no definitive end in sight, it’s becoming harder to compartmentalise work and personal life. Whether someone lives alone or has kids running around, concentrating on work demands more mental energy than before, and people are struggling to get out of “office” mode or finding themselves more overwhelmed - like they’re working all day but never getting anything done.
Getting a break from normally scheduled Zoom meetings might just be the change of pace one needs. Think about whether certain discussions really warrant a video call, or if they could be easily done over Slack, email, or even an old-fashioned phone call. It comes down to boundary setting and consciously mixing it up. As employers, we need to take Zoom fatigue seriously and encourage new forms of communication within the office. Try having a ‘walking’ Monday Morning Meeting - a group phone call as everyone takes a walk around their neighbourhood - or consider if certain meetings are actually necessary for everyone to be invited or can be optional for some.
Taking time off
Living in Singapore, it’s normal to think taking time off should involve jetting off to some exotic destination or laying on a beautiful beach on one of our neighbouring islands. Even without the possibility of overseas travel, taking an official break from work is really important to maintain one’s mental health and has shown to improve performance and organisational morale once they return.
Employers need to be the one to actively encourage their team members to spend their annual leave and take time off for themselves. With today's turbulent job market, there could be an underlying fear among employees that they must work harder than before to prove their value to the company and avoid being on the shortlist for layoffs. And if they do take time off, the homebound nature of the holiday and pervasiveness of technology only makes it more difficult for them to establish they are truly "offline" and unavailable to work.
However, there are countless ways to spend an equally re-energising and relaxing vacation without hopping on a plane. Our 33ers have spent some time rejuvenating on a spa day, experiencing staycations in some of Singapore's swankiest hotels, or planned elaborate family-day-outs from Universal Studios to the zoo. Even taking the morning off and going for a hike or having a long brunch can be a refreshing microbreak to reset your mental energy. We also make it a point to let the team know when someone's going on "vacation" so the handover is seamless and everyone is conscious not to disturb them.
Keeping things employee-centric
It's often said that the success of an organisation depends on the sum of its people. The silver lining in this new normal begins with the radical acceptance that life will continue to be difficult for a while, but that there are relevant and exciting changes that can be taken to ensure employees are feeling fulfilled.
The first is that remote work offers a relatively more flexible schedule than before, which can allow your people to better match work projects to their natural energy and attention levels. Give your team space to discover and maximise on their own needs. Knowing whether they peak with energy in the mornings, afternoons, or evenings can help staff work at their best, schedule important meetings accordingly, and give them back some autonomy while most things in the world are feeling out of control.
Secondly, recent Employee Engagement surveys we've conducted for our clients have found most employees feel valued when their company engages external trainers or experts to develop capabilities for them that translate beyond their life at work. Sometimes explicitly requesting this from HR, sessions could involve becoming a better listener, clarifying their goals, and holistic self-management. Essentially, employees want to know that their company values their overall wellbeing and are willing to put opportunities for growth at the forefront of their talent strategy, especially when these are the only tangible modes of support for remote employees at the time being.