More employees have started to bring their whole selves to work. Leaders need to pause and look at the HUMAN demands impacting their people. Addressing non-work stress, the mental and emotional demands of the last two years while balancing a full-time job is important to establish trust and transparency. Incorporating these practices in your re-introduction plans will ensure a healthier work environment for all.
We’ve all felt it. After months of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world seems to be getting back into more normal rhythms. In communities, businesses, schools and activities are opening once more. Even so, those early months of the unknown turned into nearly two years of unanticipated challenges. While everyone did their best, adapting to the changes, facing the obstacles, overcoming the challenges, everyone is tired. We are feeling the fatigue at work, at home, everywhere. Everyone is languishing, feeling the tension, facing the burnout from your clients to your team members.
The fatigue your teams are feeling can manifest in many ways. Some may be cranky, others “in a fog.” Some may seem annoyed, others frustrated. Some may feel defiant, others angry. And the list goes on, leaving leaders with lots of challenges to overcome. So, just how do we, as leaders, get our team focused, energized, and reconnected – ready to strategize, boost engagement, and enhance productivity in a healthy work environment?
As we explore the solution to team fatigue, we must take note. Even if your business is flourishing and positioned well, your team may be struggling with the loss of energy, lack of determination, and feelings of malaise. The truth is, we all possess the ability to recover and bounce back, but everyone is different, so there is no one size fits all solution. Everyone’s resilience is based on personal needs, varied histories, and unique experiences. Identifying the solution requires an examination of human needs and giving people choices. Begin the process of battling fatigue by asking your team what they need and genuinely listening to the answer. Finding a solution is bound up in having real, honest conversations, or as we like to call them, Fierce Conversations.
Understanding Human Demands
All your team members have unique human demands applying pressure and stress to specific areas of their lives. Knowing that, you can begin to understand those demands by getting to know your teams better. Each individual has different abilities, experiences, capabilities, and with those unique attributes come varying levels of stress, fatigue and burnout. Knowing your team members means you can gauge the demands they face outside of work with the expectations for them at work. You can understand their level of fatigue and develop the needed strategy to help them overcome any challenges.
When your teams are tired, honest conversations in personal meetings work best. Tired teams are more challenging to motivate than individual team members. Meet with team members privately, engage and encourage, listen and respond to needs and concerns. Teams will recognize you as part of the team, working alongside them to address issues, find solutions, and make the changes needed to restore energy, morale, and productivity.
In many cases, team fatigue results from a lack of self-care. With all the stressors facing most people today, self-care, including rest and rejuvenation, is neglected to meet life’s daily demands. Exhausted team members simply can’t be at their best at work or anywhere else. Encourage rest and recovery times for your teams and make it readily available. Factor it into planning. In most instances, you’ll find that when more leave time is used, team morale will be higher, and with it, productivity will increase as well.
What Matters Most?
In most businesses, teams haven’t spent a lot of time together in person during the pandemic, which means they need ways to reconnect with one another. Find ways to connect which work for your teams. As they come together again, re-introduce your company’s mission and goals and motivate teams with your “why” and the significance of their purpose and contribution. Here, your goal should be to move past the urgent and address the principal issues that may have been neglected in light of the challenges your company faced during the early days of the pandemic. For businesses with success throughout COVID-19, the “important” might be developing ideas for long-term competitive advantages. For companies struggling due to the sudden shift in the global workforce, the “important” might be winning back lost customers. What matters most is employee health and well-being, enhanced engagement, and increased performance to come out of the pandemic challenges as a stronger company.
Recognize and Energize
Already fatigued team members will face more significant challenges preparing for the expected post-pandemic boom. As leaders prepare teams, offering appreciation for performance during the pandemic can help energize team members. It’s not simply about recognition for wins and successes but also an appreciation for every contribution. Team members’ unique contributions and good work should always be acknowledged and celebrated. Recognition goes a long way in helping teams, and leaders overcome fatigue and sustain energy.
Offer insight on how teams can pull together, recognize one another’s contributions, and keep the energy flowing into your business. While recognition is a great start, there are many other ways to energize your teams. Real, honest communication is one way. Setting up friendly competitions is another. Dividing lengthy projects into manageable pieces is yet another. If setbacks occur, allow for honest feedback and constructive criticism. In doing so, teams see challenges as changeable, as opportunities to gain experience and learn, as areas they can positively influence.
Find Balance for Success
For team members, the challenges of the past years have not only resulted in fatigue but a great deal of evaluation, with many reimagining their lives and their successes. Returning team members and new team members want a more prominent role in balancing their future success. As a leader, you can meet this need by allowing teams’ input into your organization’s future. When you listen to diverse perspectives, team members find balance, teams feel empowered, and the company can truly meet its full potential. Honest, open communication can help leaders address the fatigue many teams are facing, reduce anxiety and stress levels and help teams see their place in the company’s future.