The impact of COVID-19 is adding increasingly to the load already tired and stressed New Zealanders, both in the community and in the business sector, are feeling.
More than 64% of New Zealand employees feel more burnt out at work now than they did prior to the lockdowns, according to a survey of 900 workers by Frog Recruitment.
Even before the pandemic, stress was increasing in New Zealand workplaces. According to the 2019 Workplace Wellness Report by BusinessNZ and Southern Cross Health Society there was a 23.5% rise in stress across businesses in the last two years.

But with the outbreak of COVID-19, health concerns, economic uncertainty and work-life changes have had a telling effect on the community and businesses.
Work fatigue creates a number of issues, critically the health and safety of employers and employees. It also has a major impact on efficiency and, especially, productivity. 
Distractions, errors, an inability to concentrate and a lack of motivation can have a negative impact on the bottom line, which, in turn, can have an even larger impact on employee morale.  An Australian Government report says work fatigue is not only dangerous but costly to the economy, making employees less productive and at greater risk of accidents, injuries and mistakes. The report says tired workers are as impaired as drunk drivers and can be a danger to themselves and others.
Interestingly, the new COVID-19 norm of working from home, which is gathering momentum in New Zealand, is something of a two-edged sword. While there is strong evidence of productivity increasing while working from home, studies show many employers and employees find it harder to call it a day. As there is less distinction between work and personal life when working from home you are more likely to overwork. The lack of personal social interaction with fellow workers can make employees feel isolated. Social interaction is a great stress reducer.

“Prevention is the key. Once an employee is on the downward spiral of stress it’s hard to turn it around”

What can you do about it?

So, with work fatigue a growing issue in 2020, what can you as an employer do about it?

Firstly, it’s important to recognise the signs of fatigue which can lead to burn out. It’s a gradual, creeping condition. 

Highly productive workers may begin to feel the pressure of maintaining their efficiency with the added stresses we are all feeling in this pandemic. They start to show symptoms of reduced productivity, motivation and energy; they show irritability and frustration. They LOOK fatigued.

There are a number of pre-emptive actions you can put into place to reduce your employees’ (and yours, for that matter) stress levels and prevent burnout.
Prevention is the key. Once an employee is on the downward spiral of stress it’s hard to turn it around. It’s important to assess workload, especially for those you believe are more vulnerable (over-achievers; those trying to balance work and family commitments; those under economic pressure, etc.) or seem to be putting in too many hours and pushing themselves.

Once assessed, are the hours they working reasonable? Should strict boundaries be put into place to reduce their working hours? 

At the same time, are you setting reasonable expectations on your employees in these tougher times? Certainly business is feeling the pressure more than ever but if your employees burn out you will soon not have a business. An employee under stress is unlikely to reinforce good customer and fellow employee relations.
Simple things like ensuring proper breaks are taken away from their computer/desk, or organising social events can help reduce stress levels.

Provide wellbeing tips on your website and contact details of organisations that can help employees suffering from mental stress.

Remember, as the employer you should lead from the front, demonstrate you are ensuring you balance your work and life.

An obvious but sometimes overlooked activity by employers in these uncertain times is something very simple but effective: communicating with your employees. Brief, informal chats can often help you recognise growing stress in your employees. If your relationship is good enough the employee may express their concerns about stress. This feedback is invaluable, offering you an opportunity to not only show genuine empathy but discuss ways to help.

A simple “Are you OK?” can be the best tonic for stressed employees.

We live in one of the most stressful times the world has ever seen. In the community and in the workplace people are feeling the effects of the epidemic and they aren’t going away soon. There are ways to help your family and employees in these times. But it starts with how you, yourself are travelling.

Are you OK?

Important notice - Steadfast Group Limited ABN 98 073 659 677 and Steadfast Network Brokers

This article provides information rather than financial product or other advice. The content of this article, including any information contained in it, has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider the appropriateness of the information, taking these matters into account, before you act on any information. In particular, you should review the product disclosure statement for any product that the information relates to it before acquiring the product.  

Information is current as at the date the article is written as specified within it but is subject to change. Steadfast Group Ltd and Steadfast Network Brokers make no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of the information. Various third parties have contributed to the production of this content. All information is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Steadfast Group Limited.