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For months, people have struggled with the mental health toll linked to quarantines, layoffs, illness, death and now, bleak COVID-19 projections for the winter months.
Experts have coined a term for the weariness that continues to have economic, social and cultural implications: “COVID fatigue.”
COVID fatigue is a mental and emotional state associated with protracted pandemic-related stress. At the beginning of the pandemic, people felt motivated to do their part to stop the spread of the virus. But the good stress (eustress) that buoyed such attitudes – initially viewed as short-term – has transitioned to a period of ongoing distress.
Consequently, survival mechanisms are triggered. Nicole Yarmolkevich, MS, LPC describes them as fight, flight, free or faun (give in). While people are usually able to regain a sense of equilibrium in the aftermath of a stressful event, oscillation between the four reactions is causing extreme fatigue as the pandemic drags on.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about half of the world’s population is experiencing COVID fatigue, leading to demotivation and dwindling vigilance in following safety precautions such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
At the request of European member states, WHO has developed a framework of recommendations to guide national and subnational strategies. Key strategies include:
This framework can provide a road map for employers who are trying to support their employees during this time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that stress and burnout during the pandemic have significantly impacted the lives of workers, regardless of the type of industry they work in, or whether they do remote or on-site work.
In addition to continuing to emphasize the importance of compliance with prevention measures, here are recommendations employers can follow to help employees build resilience to COVID fatigue:
4. Remind employees that their efforts to protect themselves and others matter, even if the results are not clearly apparent.
5. Promote healthy work habits to support well-being. This might include:
Studies show that prioritizing employee needs increases productivity and retention, and it fosters a sense of community, an especially important workplace characteristic during this time.
To learn more about COVID fatigue, refer to our Nov. 11 weekly webinar on Preventing and Managing COVID-19 in the Workplace. To register for WorkCare’s free webinar series, click here.
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