COVID Fatigue is Real

Published on October 1, 2020.

Nearly one in three American workers contend with school and childcare obligations and with distance and hybrid learning the new norm, the University must forget the past and establish new ways of working or risk losing an important part of our workforce. 

Feature Insight

Addressing COVID Fatigue  

COVID fatigue is real. Studies show that three times more Americans are experiencing depression than before the pandemic. No one knows for sure how long these “uncertain times” will last and with classes underway for students at the University and in K-12 education, cooler months looming, and continued isolation, we’re all at risk for even more burnout and psychological stress.

If it seems as though you’re still in “survival mode,” you’re not alone and it can be challenging to find fresh and new ways to stay resilient and support the faculty, staff, grad students, and student workers you supervise.

Support flexibility. If you haven’t done so already, take some time to initiate conversations with your faculty and staff about the type of flexibility they need as we begin the academic year. Perhaps that means adjusting working hours, or encouraging your team to use their calendars to block off time for caregiving responsibilities.

Reestablish priorities. Remember, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and global crisis. Focus your attention on your college or unit’s top priorities. Now is not the time to begin non-essential initiatives. You may also have to adjust project deadlines or timelines that take into account COVID fatigue and burnout.

Check in. Make a point to go beyond the standard “how are you?” Use this time to express your gratitude for their work, acknowledge that the pandemic has affected us all differently, and encourage them to find ways to take care of themselves.

This is also an opportunity to check in on workloads and deadlines so that you can make adjustments and be realistic about what is actually achievable. Be aware that your high performers are more likely to be hesitant to ask for help.

Create new norms. The most common sources of stress at work are: conflicting demands, unclear expectations, prioritization, and constant interruptions. In our remote work environment these stressors look different. The conflicting demands are those of our home vs. work life. The constant interruptions come from our children, pets, spouses or partners, and other family members.

Talk with your team about establishing norms that allow for flexibility and self-care. If you find yourself in back-to-back Zoom meetings, set a maximum meeting time to 20 or 50 minutes to allow for breaks between meetings. Consciously plan times for emails and expected responses. Remember to model the boundaries your team establishes around work.

As you think about how to implement these things, do so with trust and confidence in your team to continue to be productive and successful in these circumstances, while prioritizing their wellbeing.