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What Startup Leaders need to know about Pandemic Fatigue

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by Startacus Admin

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Darren Hockley, MD of eLearning provider, DeltaNet International, shares advice and tips on identifying and managing pandemic fatigue in these challenging times

pexels-photo-3755761.As a business owner, you’ve probably heard it a million times before: tough situations will make you stronger. However, despite how comforting those words may sound, so many startups never make it past the first year. Why? Because a great idea isn’t enough on its own – you need to build resilience and agility in order to survive. Yomust react quickly and smartly to issues before they snowball and become unmanageable.  

It's true, in many ways, business owners are used to staying alert and dealing with uncertainty. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant this state of being has become constant. Living in a perpetual state of emergency, the so-called ‘new normal’doesn’t allow us to ever put our guard down – a truth that threatens our health as well as our businesses.  

What is pandemic fatigue? 

Over the past weeks many of us have experienced something experts are calling ‘pandemic fatigue’. It’s a state of emotional burn out brought on because our fight or flight system (the emotional reaction to stress that has been otherwise energising us through the pandemic) is totally overloaded. When this happens, the constant flow of adrenaline in our systems starts to drain and apathy settles in.  

It makes sense; we’re expected to be productive at work, be strong leaders to our employees, and navigate our businesses through the ever-changing landscape coronavirus carves out. Many of us are also parenting/home-schooling to some extent, juggling home-life with work-life during a winter that has felt evermore bleak and lonely. 

Whilst it’s true that vaccines are bringing us some much-needed hope, feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness can quickly overwhelm positive emotions. After all, emotional endurance dwindles over time and, given the nature of the pandemic, we don’t have the same sense of security we could fall back on pre-pandemic. There’s been too much upheaval, loss, and worry – both personally and professionally speaking. 

What are the signs of pandemic fatigue? 

photo-1456406644174-8ddd4cd52a06.jIt’s going to be important to be able to spot signs of pandemic fatigue in ourselves as well as those we work alongside. After all, pandemic fatigue can result in a lax approach to public health measures (wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing), which could land your business with stiff fines - even closure in extreme cases 

Additionally, as employers, we owe a duty of care to our staff under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Indeed, it’s one of the reasons H&S training exists – all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of those in our employment. 

Below are some signs to watch out for in yourself and your employees:  

  • Aforementioned indifference or non-adherence to coronavirus safety measures 

  • Sleeping enough, yet still feeling exhausted 

  • Feeling more irritable or impatient than usual 

  • Feeling stressed by tasks you usually complete with ease 

  • Feeling disinterested or apathetic towards activities you used to find enjoyable 

  • Feelings of detachment or hopelessness about the future 

  • Lack of focus and concentration, even on day-to-day tasks 

  • Increased consumption of alcohol, food, or other substances (often used to manage above feelings) 

As startup and small business leaders, it’s up to us to lean into these feelings and manage their impact wherever we encounter them. Dismissing them or trying to sweep them under the rug won't work, instead we should meet this phenomenon with the same flexibility and collaboration we might any other business challenge we wish to overcome. 

Managing pandemic fatigue 

pexels-photo-4652250.It’s difficult to over-communicate at times like this, so I recommend starting the conversation companywide – how you do this is up to yousome may prefer individual managers to speak to their respective teams (if the business is big enough), others may prefer to circulate information and/or resources via a company newsletter or wellbeing email. As the leader of the company, it’s up to you to set the tone from the top and demonstrate you’re taking pandemic fatigue seriously.  

Either you or your team leaders should be prepared to have private conversations with employees that are struggling. If they are feeling overwhelmed, connect them to available COVID-19 mental health resources or other forms of counselling your business may have access to. 

Remember to check in on a regular basis with your remote staff. Make sure they have the tools and equipment they need to work efficiently and safely from home and, whether you/your staff are back in the office or at home, the below methods can help reduce the impact of pandemic fatigue and encourage us to stay strong and resilient:  

  • Monitor your 'doom scrolling 

At the moment, one of the biggest distractions is the news. Checking for COVID-19 updates, or clicking on news alerts/social media links as and when they pop up, is going to be hard to resist. 

But be wary of scrolling yourself into despair. Relying on unreputable sources for news about the outbreak can fuel anxiety, making it difficult to concentrate and putting your mental health at risk. 

  • Replenish your energy  

Burnout can occur when you feel stuck, resulting in feeling out of controlso factoring in relaxation activities is more than just icing on the cake when it comes to wellbeing.  

pexels-photo-3776659.jGoing for walks/runs, enjoying a bath or a book, cooking, baking, gardening, or any activity you can safely enjoy will go a long way to restoring balance and upkeeping motivation levels.  

  • Stick to a routine  

Of particular importance to those working from home, finding a new routine and sticking to it can be a big help when it comes to battling pandemic fatigue. 

Routines are safe and predictable and, as such, can be a powerful antidote to COVID-related stress since they create much-needed feelings of stability.  

  • Don’t cut yourself off 

It’s natural, when we feel stressed, to push friends, family, and colleagues away out of frustration, but know this will only increase stress, long-term.  

Teamwork and communication is the key here, so keep communication lines open and don’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability. It helps to know we’re all in the same boat sometimes - we can all help one another maintain hope. 

Darren Hockley is Managing Director of eLearning provider, DeltaNet International. The company specialises in the development of health and safety and compliance eLearning courses, as well as tailored training solutions. 

 


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Published on: 15th February 2021

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