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How businesses help workers avoid ‘pandemic fatigue’

Everyone is tired. Between the pandemic, now more than a year long, economic instability and political and social unrest hitting at the same time, most people are just looking for a break.

Businesses, big and small, are also struggling with this pandemic fatigue. Leaders continue to look for ways to keep their employees engaged. Here are some of the ways they are coping.

Finding a new purpose: A large New York catering company knew it would take a big hit when COVID-19 restrictions kicked in. Knowing that big events would not be an option, the CEO changed the company’s focus to preparing meals for essential workers and others unable to quarantine at home. As a result, most workers have stayed on at full salary.

Direct aid to workers: Austin-based fast-food chain P. Terry’s gives workers gift cards to help pay for groceries and offers interest-free loans to help them make ends meet. They also paid workers hourly wages for volunteering for civic and community causes.

Pay increases: A sixth-generation family-owned Pennsylvania pretzel maker gave all 85 workers a $2-an-hour pay raise and hired temporary employees to create a backup workforce. The move allows workers showing virus symptoms to stay home without increasing the workload on other employees.

In-person gatherings: A Florida material handling company focuses on keeping morale up by holding large picnic-type events in their parking lot. While meeting the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines, they have helped workers stay connected. The CEO says these gatherings have helped everyone keep a positive attitude.

Virtual water coolers: With so many employees working exclusively from home, employers have encouraged them to maintain personal contact through Zoom gatherings after-hours. Some of these events include trivia contests and even musical performances. However, some caution against holding them too often to avoid Zoom fatigue.

Empathetic leadership: Psychologists say CEOs, managers and other company officials should not try to ignore or gloss over the impacts the pandemic has wrought on their workers and themselves. It is OK to tell your employees that you are struggling. Setting an example by showing vulnerability is not a weakness, but acknowledges the difficulties we all face and can help others who may be in crisis.

Better times are ahead

Taking the time to reach out and help workers may pay dividends down the road. With the number of vaccinations increasing and reports of infections and hospitalizations going down, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Some economists are even forecasting a strong recovery once the virus is under control.

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