During the month of March in a normal year, the work week can be filled with many various distractions for employees. The first hints of spring weather delight our senses and beckon us away from our computers and desks. Vacation planning mode is turned on as we look to the future trips and fun family holidays away from the daily grind. And then there’s national sporting events, such as baseball spring training and the NCAA March Madness that can veer our focus away from our work.

But this isn’t a typical year. Nor is it a normal spring season.

After a full year of quarantine, isolation and nothing that’s been normal in our lives for the past twelve-months, pandemic fatigue has set in, manifesting itself in mental and physical changes in our workforce. We’re getting tired of the same routine: mask up and avoid and limit human contact as much as possible

And while there are signs of light at the end of the tunnel as we finally turn the corner and return to some semblance of normalcy, we’re not quite there yet.

Employees are struggling with pandemic fatigue, which leads to a plethora of mental and physical distractions.

The implications of COVID-19 on mental and physical health is alarming. According to a February 2021 report published through KFF.org there was a significant increase in the depression and anxiety reported in adults from January 2020 to January 2021. A 30% increase year-over-year of adults reporting systems of anxiety or depression.

Not surprising in that the report linked the negative impacts on mental health, difficulty sleeping, eating habits, increased alcohol or substance use and other exaggerated health conditions to worry and stress over the coronavirus. Furthermore, job loss, disruption in school and work routines and isolation compound the negative impacts it’s had on our lives.

It’s no wonder employees need a distraction right now. But where and when is an employer required to step in and redirect an employee’s performance and what are the signs that pandemic fatigue may be the culprit?

There are no easy remedies and each employee is impacted in different ways. The first and best approach to managing the problem is to be proactive. Communicate regularly and often with your employees. Share advice or offer assistance or other support to recognize the influence the pandemic has on the workplace and employees and that your employees are not alone. Offering up even a small portion of compassion can help an employee in immeasurable ways. Continue to coach and provide positive feedback on performance and practice patience when an employee has slid off track.

Where you can, implement some fun tactics to engage workers, especially those who work in teams remotely. Isolation can drain creativity and hope, but employers can encourage socialization and stabilization via online meeting tools and reinforcement of bonding mechanisms.

But beware of the Zoom doom. Limiting the number of team Zoom calls when possible will allow your team members the time they need to recharge and manage their daily schedules, task and time.

With spring in the air and hopefully an end in sight to the pandemic, it might also encourage employees to get outside, take a breather, and maybe even catch a few NCAA basketball games in the process.

If you’d like information on how to incorporate leadership strategies into your workplace, contact our HR Consultant team at JB Consulting Systems.