Change fatigue: What it is and how managers can get smart about combating it

Change fatigue: What it is and how managers can get smart about combating it

Coming up on the 3rd anniversary of the coronavirus being declared a global pandemic, we can all agree on one thing: we are tired of talking about the pandemic. 

But the hard truth is that the pandemic has caused a seismic shift in the way we live and especially in the way we work. 

One lasting way the workforce has been impacted is in an employee’s capacity (or lack thereof) to deal with change. 

Under typical circumstances, change can be difficult. Normally, as humans, we have a built-in reservoir – known as surge capacity – that allows us to deal with short-term change. Because we are dealing with sustained, long-term change, our reservoirs are depleted.

As a result, we are collectively dealing with a concept known as change fatigue. Across organizations of all sizes, employees are feeling increasingly resistant to any company-wide changes. 

In fact, a survey conducted by Capterra last year found that 71% of employees feel overwhelmed by the amount of change at their job.

With a potential recession looming, employees facing the very real threat of losing their jobs, and an ongoing health crisis, employers cannot afford to ignore the consequences of change fatigue. 

Employee burnout, turnover, and dissatisfaction will continue to increase as organizations continue to make changes. So, is there anything that managers and leaders can do to combat the effects of change fatigue and nurture their employees?

Yes, there is. And the time to act is now.

The 2022 Capterra study also found that 83% of people feel their employers are not doing enough to address change fatigue, which tells us there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Put employees first, always

In this tumultuous time, our human nature is to crave connection and stability. We must take a somewhat psychological approach to all of our interactions, and this is especially true in the workplace. 

Managers must focus not just on their team- and company-wide goals, but also on the people who sit on their team and their individual needs. 

Here are effective ways to be efficient and considerate leaders:

1. Tone down uncertainty where you can

Even the most emotionally stable people have become familiar with a sense of anxiety over the last few years. Change can and will happen rapidly and unexpectedly. We know that now. 

As a manager, you have the opportunity to be a calm and steady leader. The best way to do this is by practicing transparency. As much as possible, be honest with your team and let them know what’s coming up. 

Yes, sometimes this means having uncomfortable, difficult conversations. If lay-offs are imminent, don’t let your valued employees be caught off guard. Be as detailed as possible about what’s coming in the near future. 

If changes are being made to the team – a new manager taking over, a shuffling of roles and responsibilities – communicate this clearly and explain the reason behind the change.

Doing this is a win for everyone’s mental health – it allows your team to turn off their high alert switch. They can take a deep breath, unclench their fists, and relax a bit knowing what to expect.  

2. Show employees they are being invested in

The goal here is to build trust. With a strong sense of trust, there’s room for higher job satisfaction, more loyalty, and increased productivity. 

More than ever, employees want to feel valued and like their role is integral to the success of the company, as opposed to being a disposable cog in the wheel. Because of the pandemic, people are becoming highly selective about who and how they choose to spend their time, and their career is no exception. If an employee is investing their time in you, they want reciprocity. 

What can you do to show that you want your team members around for the long haul? 

  • Invest in their career growth; offer training and learning opportunities that’ll help them advance (note that employers should also be investing in their managers and teaching them how to lead through this time)
  • Make it easy for your teammates to get the mental health breaks they need – consider perks that align with this such as memberships to a meditation app, yoga classes, flexible hours, and plenty of time off
  • Be an advocate for the democratization of technology – adopt tools that your team members can easily implement and empower them to automate routine tasks and spend more time on the work they love 

3. Foster team connection

Especially in a remote environment, employees are feeling less personally connected to their colleagues. With little time for watercooler chats or social activities, employees are less likely to feel a bond with one another. 

Combat this by scheduling regular team breaks. Here are some ideas:

  • Meet for 30 minutes a week to have coffee and chat – no work talk allowed 
  • Host a trivia night, cooking class, exercise break, or happy hour 
  • Start a book club or other common interest group 
  • Use Slack or other messenger app to share photos of pets or kids, tell jokes, or swap memes
  • Make sure marginalized groups feel seen and heard by encouraging them to meet in a safe space and trade ideas on how to move through the obstacles they commonly face 
  • Consider hosting a team-wide diversity and inclusion training where everyone can take part in the mission to create a more equitable workplace 

4. Make yourself available

Whether part of an official HR strategy or a personal decision, make sure your team members have access to you. Schedule time in your calendar for office hours on a weekly or even daily basis and offer your support to any of your team members who may be struggling.

This is a time for you to lead with empathy, really listen to what your team needs, and create a path towards progress. Be an advocate by collecting feedback and presenting it to executive leadership.  Organizations cannot expect to succeed if their people are feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. 

Learn how the airSlate suite of automation tools can combat change fatigue and get your team back on a productive, high-morale track.

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