Empathy Burnout – Post Pandemic Management

Upset Manager

In many ways, we are back to business as usual after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But business as usual looks a bit…unusual. Today’s managers are navigating new post-pandemic pressures.  As businesses work to recoup major financial losses, managers must rely on already exhausted workers to carry the extra load.  Managers are also navigating empathy burnout toward employees contracting COVID in the post-pandemic work culture. Additionally, many managers now oversee employees working remote, hybrid, and in-office schedules. Post pandemic pressures such as these challenge both managers and the manager/employee relationship.

Pressure #1: Managing Employee Burnout while Recouping Lost Profits

The COVID-19 pandemic cost the global economy $12.5 trillion dollars through 2024, according to a forecast made by the International Monetary Fund (Reuters).  Between May of 2020 and September of 2022, 9.6 million jobs were lost in the U.S. due to COVID (Forbes).  Small business suffered and many companies had to change their business models completely to stay afloat. 

Many workers retired or changed jobs during the pandemic. With a labor shortage, businesses had to rely heavily on already exhausted workers to carry the extra load.

As we adjust back to business post-pandemic, managers remain under pressure to recoup lost profits and push employees to meet bigger goals.  To prevent burnout, managers must use praise and fill employee’s buckets to keep valued employees. 

Pressure #2: Managing Empathy Burnout for Employee Sick Leave Post COVID

During the pandemic, businesses adopted policies surrounding COVID sick leave from work.  This included quarantine periods, flexible policies for childcare, and paid time off for other hardships related to the pandemic.

For most companies, these policies have now ended.  Quarantine periods are shorter, and many managers do not have the same level of empathy when an employee tests positive for COVID.  Owner of architecture and design firm Richard Onken told the Washington Post that COVID barely registers as a reason to miss work anymore. Onken says, “Clients are done with the COVID excuse.  They’re not listening to it anymore. ‘Oh, you’ve got someone with COVID, well, who’s going to pick up the slack and take their place for a week or two while they’re out?’’

Some workers report that they feel pressured to come in to work while sick.  And even with vaccines available, people are still contracting COVID variants and becoming quite ill.  Remote workers may feel like there is really no excuse to not be able to get on a computer and work remotely. “Employers should want their workers to use their sick leave and stay healthy, but too often they prioritize profits over the people who keep their companies running, says Jess Raimundo, Director of Communications at United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (Business Insider).

Pressure #3:  Managing Hybrid and Flexible Workers

Each company has its own opinion on returning to an in-office environment versus continuing policies offering remote and flexible schedules.  Among employees, working remotely remains a popular option. “Once stay-at-home orders ended and workplaces started reopening, companies had to consider workers’ new preferences. For many businesses, this meant adopting a hybrid model. Whether their original hybrid approach remains depends on how well the company can incorporate the best features of work-from-home and work-at-office while also ensuring optimal productivity for the company (Jerry Cahn, Forbes Business Council).

The best managers are the ones who proactively communicate clear expectations.  If the company adopts a policy for work from home days, managers should enforce it consistently.  When employees do spend time in the office, managers should make the most of this time.  “I suggest managers put some structure in place to ensure that time in the office is optimized for face time. For example, make a team schedule, so the days in the office are most meaningful and focused on connections, both scheduled and serendipitous (Julia Austin, Harvard Business School).

Managers, remember that even though things are much better in certain ways post-pandemic, employees continue to be affected by this major shared event.  It is ok to be compassionate.  “You can still lead your employees to reach company goals while seeing them as whole people whose entire lives have been upended in anxiety-inducing ways, says Boris Groysberg, Harvard Business School. “Perhaps they would benefit if you made yourself more available for meaningful conversations, or if you offered more flexibility so that both work and personal demands can receive the attention they deserve. Seemingly small kindnesses can go a long way.”

How has your business changed after the pandemic?  Do you have new staffing needs to consider?  Please reach out to the recruiting experts at Artemis Consultants.

-Written exclusively for Artemis Consultants by Content Writer Mellody Melville

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