Life Fatigue: The Challenge Your Employees are Facing Daily – and How You Can Help
Your employees are wiped out.
While many of them are likely still performing, still smiling through their days at the office, adding the energy to your culture that we all craved while working remotely, they’re exhausted.
The phrase “pandemic fatigue” was originally used in the medical and public health communities to describe the dwindling energy within society to continue combatting the pandemic (wearing masks, getting vaccinated, social distancing, etc.).
However, today, we believe this level of fatigue also applies to the mental, physical, and emotional impact that comes from living through a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, increasing rates of inflation, renewed threats of war, social unrest, and a revolving door of talent in the workplace.
It’s greater than pandemic fatigue – it’s “life fatigue”.
How does life fatigue affect people?
To generalize, life fatigue makes people feel disconnected. Similar to Adam Grant’s definition of “languishing”, it’s that “looking at your life through a foggy windshield” feeling, like you’re running on autopilot without a purpose.
The degree to which people feel the effects of life fatigue, though, differentiates the concept. Life fatigue runs the gamut from that aimless, meandering feeling to full-blown hopelessness, or even depression. It’s a mental health crisis that’s bubbling beneath the surface – and we’re already seeing how these unique factors are affecting people on an individual level, as well as a societal level.
The World Health Organization (WHO), released a scientific brief in March 2022 that stated, “Global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%,” with women and young people being the most affected by these conditions. In addition, the brief called out widening gaps in care as mental health services have been disrupted by the pandemic, even as mental health problems become more prevalent.
What are we seeing in the workplace?
The workplace is a microcosm of society, so it’s unsurprising that the same mental, physical, and emotional health crisis we’re seeing globally would be reflected on the employer level.
Life has become largely unpredictable for people. It seems that every day there is a new challenge for them to consider. Many have taken on a caregiver role as a result of the pandemic, are working through grief, or even managing financial obstacles on top of processing and reacting to the world’s many hardships.
In the workplace, that unpredictability and the corresponding life fatigue is manifesting as lower productivity, lower levels of engagement, and high rates of turnover. It could mean employees are actively searching for their life’s purpose in the stability of their day-to-day role, or that they’ve fallen into the quicksand-like trap of life fatigue and are having a hard time seeing why it could be so important to find their way out.
How can employers help their team?
The challenge of life fatigue is unlike nearly any challenge employers have faced before. Add to that a growing consensus that employers are more responsible for caring for their employees on a holistic scale than ever before, and you may feel wholly unprepared to help your employees tackle this issue.
However, there are some aspects of life fatigue that employers can help with to take care of their employees during this difficult time.
Provide mental health resources
First and foremost, focus on the mental health impact that life fatigue causes in your employees. Without sound mental health and support, it’s impossible for your employees to address the other issues that they may be facing, whether they are physical, emotional, or financial.
By connecting your employees with true mental health experts and their accompanying resources, you are acting as their backbone during this time, taking the weight of finding the right support off of their plates, and giving them the power to take back their lives.
At the next level, we’ve seen employers expand their employee benefits to offer free membership to apps that can assist with the logistics of caregiving, create access to mental health services without co-pays, subsidize telehealth mental health counseling, provide mental health experts on-site, and more.
As an employer, you may feel like you’re walking a fine line between assisting your employees with the challenges that they face due to life fatigue and overstepping your boundaries as a formal employer. At the end of the day – what do employees really want from their employer?
They want to feel connected to your culture, and connected to the sense of purpose they get from their role in your organization.
Connected to your culture
This is perhaps the facet of employee engagement that gets touched on most by thought leaders in our space – but, for good reason! If your employees don’t feel a sense of community at work, or like their values are represented by your organization, it is unlikely that they are connected to your culture.
That feeling of disconnect that is characteristic of life fatigue? It can be exacerbated (or lessened) by the level of connection your employees feel to your workplace and the people in it. Focusing on building a culture that engages each of your employees should be at the top of every business leader’s mind.
Connected to your industry
This second piece isn’t addressed quite as often, though we believe it to be just as vitally important to employee engagement. Employers can help their employees tackle and/or process the issues that lead to life fatigue better by helping them identify the purpose of your organization and your industry, and connect their personal purpose to the organization’s.
Employees need to feel that they are making an impact when they come to work, that their daily contributions add up to something larger than themselves. If you are able to articulate your company and industry’s effect on the world around you, you have a shot at helping your employees balance the challenges of life fatigue with the opportunities and influence they have through their work.
Today’s employees are facing hardship from what seems like every direction. From lingering pandemic effects to anxieties associated with the war for talent, life fatigue is affecting every employee at differing levels.
Employers, now more than ever, are being relied upon to provide tools and resources to employees that can help them address not only their mental health, but also their emotional, physical, and financial health – all aspects that contribute to life fatigue.
M3 has compiled key resources for employers to share with their employees. In addition to these resources, we recommend contacting your M3 account executive to discuss innovative benefit strategies that you can implement to assist your employees through this difficult time.