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Fortnightly Review – Pandemic has triggered epidemic burnout

Published 1 year ago 22nd November 2021 by Laura Grace

The pandemic has triggered an epidemic of burnout and it has left many employees feeling isolated, lonely, and struggling to cope! A large part of the workforce is still working from home, still living, and working in the same place, trying to find the balance or the line or something that defines the difference between work life and home life!

For some this past 20 months has intensified the impact of work on our personal life, it has brought a world of pain and negatively impacted our mental health. What was once mundane chatting over the coffee machine before heading to your desk, or impromptu conversations passing in the hallway are distant memories but now obvious reminders that those once trivial acts were positively attributing to our happiness and wellbeing.

Working from home offers great benefits there are no doubts however without the correct processes and management in place WFH can be a dangerous and isolating environment.

Are employers really doing enough to mind their workforce during these difficult times? For some a call from the Ergonomics specialists to make sure our “environment is safe” and our chairs are at the correct angle seems to be about it! But what about our mental health. What about the fact that the 40 hours a week we once spent interacting with other humans, chairing meetings, doing presentations and traveling is gone! And has been replaced with zoom calls, team calls, telephone calls but nobody calls!

Words that were once associated with working from home were, flexible, autonomy, space, freedom, trust but more and more I am hearing words like, loneliness, isolation, fear, exclusion, forgotten, burnout in conversations about WFH. A big part of those feelings is derived from how leaders have shown up for their employees during the pandemic.

Think about that, how did your leader or manager show up for you during this pandemic – were you well informed, was there clear guidelines, did you have daily or weekly meetings, did you feel seen, were your needs met? Or were you like so many who were left to their own devices and feeling a little lost in this whole pandemic and frankly resentful towards their workplace?

When we go for an interview, we are told to look up the company and understand their values and culture but what does that really mean? The motivation behind corporate culture is to create a sense of alliance a feeling of belonging and being part of a community. It results in an organisation building ideas and goals for their workforce to follow and in theory ultimately leads to company success. I guess a good way to see if a company lived up to their values and beliefs is to see the treatment to their workforce during the pandemic.

We all like to belong, as humans our need to be seen, our need to be heard, our need to belong to something (like work) is a basic yet fundamental need that must be met. As humans we are hardwired for connection, our work, what we do for most of our waking day and much of our existence plays a role in this – we need to belong and work offers that sense of community, being part of something, being connected by the same core values and shared beliefs, working towards the same goal, and essentially hanging part of our identity in our job.

For all those reasons leaders must leverage this unique moment that we are in, to reflect on what kind of a company they want to lead, if you cannot take this responsibility on and ensure the wellbeing of your workforce perhaps the position of leader is not yours to hold. This is a huge responsibility and not one to be snuffed at, people’s lives, people’s health, people’s mental health are at stake.

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