Despite the number of months we are into this COVID way of life, pandemic burnout isn’t lessening. And as we move into the winter months ahead, it could, for a number of people, get worse.
This year has demanded no shortage of elasticity of us. And with no end to the pandemic yet in sight, a lot of folks feel their elastic is at a near-snapping point — something that’s only exacerbated by the pretense of normalcy funneled to us by social media and in our workplaces.
A friend of mine recently had this to share: For the first two to three months of the pandemic, she said, her team discussed how they were feeling and coping with life’s changes weekly if not daily. Emotion-driven check-ins from management and between team members were par for the course. But at a certain point, she said this communication had all but vanished. Business pressures increased, workloads intensified, and all of the sudden, it felt like the fact they were working so vigorously while still in the midst of a pandemic wasn’t even being acknowledged. Her manager, she told me, seemed to think the team should’ve adapted fully enough by that point to allow COVID to fade into the background — as if a very real force that continues to shake the foundation of our day-to-day lives could simply become background fodder.
The truth is, your manager owes you support and a recognition of your humanity — and they owe you those things today. Taking a moment to ask how you were doing in March and April isn’t enough. It’s literally a core part of your manager’s job to ensure that you’re set up to succeed, and keeping tabs on your sense of well-being is absolutely a part of that.
So, if your manager cares about being supportive — not just when the pandemic felt novel, but as we continue to navigate it — they’ll be asking you these things today.
1. “How are you feeling?”
Asking how you’re feeling isn’t a box for your manager to check once or twice and call it done. It should be an ongoing, regular part of their communication with you, and should be delivered with the reassurance that you can be honest with them.
2. “Have you taken a break yet today?”
This is even better as: “Do you feel that you’re able to take breaks during the day, and if not, what can I do to help change that?”
Working from home remains a challenge for many of us. Several friends of mine feel that, while they made a point of logging off for a walk or a yoga class at the start of the pandemic, they’re finding it increasingly hard to keep up that practice today. Managers should continue to reference the importance of taking breaks and lead by example on this front.
3. “I’m about to log off for the day but will get this back to you tomorrow.”
Leaders should, again, be modeling work-life boundaries. Otherwise, it's only that much harder for employees to feel they have permission to draw these lines themselves.
4. “Let’s talk about your career goals.”
Given the amount of immediate, day-to-day uncertainty we continue to reckon with, it's reassuring to be reminded of one's longer-term career vision. Your manager shouldn’t be letting this fall by the wayside. Instead, they should be initiating conversations with you about your goals and professional development.
5. “Here’s one thing I think you did really well this week.”
Now isn't the time to leave employees uncertain of whether their efforts are seen and/or appreciated. Managers should make a point of giving team members regular feedback — including praise where and when it’s due.