Find out how change has contributed to employee fatigue, how it’s affecting your business, and how you manage it effectively to minimise further disruption.
Over the past two years, employees across every industry have been through significant changes as their businesses adapted to the challenges of the pandemic.
From transitioning to hybrid working, to embracing new working processes, employees have had to manage a lot of additional pressure on top of their everyday roles – and in many cases, it’s led to fatigued workforces.
It’s a challenge that’s increasingly present on HR leaders’ minds, too. Gartner reports that 54% of HR leaders recognise their employees are fatigued from recent organisational changes. And they’re trying to solve it – Gartner’s report also revealed that change management is HR leaders’ second-biggest priority in 2022.
In this blog, we’ll explore what’s created this build-up of employee fatigue, how it’s affecting organisations, and how you can strategically manage change to minimise its disruption moving forward.
A closer look at what’s causing employee fatigue
One of the biggest changes that contributed to fatigue during the pandemic was the shift to remote and flexible working, which significantly affected how people work, and how they collaborate and socialise with their colleagues.
Remote and flexible working requires employees to manage their own schedules, often giving them more responsibility and less support. Also, it means being physically isolated from team members and other departments, which can quickly have a negative impact on team cohesion.
Managing these pressures during the onset of the pandemic undoubtedly contributed to a lot of additional stress on top of employees’ daily responsibilities and workloads. And this was only worsened by the pressure to adopt new technologies.
According to Deloitte, 75% of office workers started using at least two new types of technology for work since the start of lockdown, and a quarter of workers felt overwhelmed by all the different technologies they needed to use. Combined with the additional pandemic-related concerns around the economy, job security, and health, employees had some big burdens to carry – and they’ve had lasting effects.
Gartner’s report revealed that today’s average employee can only absorb half as much change before becoming fatigued, compared to how much they could handle in 2019. And without support, this fatigue can quickly snowball into wider business problems.
The real impact of employee fatigue
Employee fatigue often transforms into burnout, frustration, and apathy, impacting engagement and affecting organisations’ ability to remain productive.
In fact, the Gartner report identified that when employees experience high levels of fatigue, employee performance and their discretionary effort both decrease by up to 33%. Plus, fatigue has an even bigger impact on wider team working, with as much as a 39% decrease in effective team collaboration, and up to a 44% decrease in employee inclusion.
Crucially, employee fatigue has the biggest impact on employees’ intent to stay – with employees up to 54% less likely to remain with their employer if they’re highly fatigued. These pressures mean that HR leaders will need to focus on how they make organisational changes moving forward, to ensure they don’t contribute to further employee fatigue or disrupt the business.
A strategic approach to change management
Managing change and increasing your employees’ ability to cope with change will involve refocusing your organisational design strategy to consider the overall health and wellbeing of your workforce.
Helpfully, Gartner splits this new approach to organisational design into three key focus points: healthy employees, healthy relationships, and healthy environments.
As part of supporting the health of your employees, it’ll be important to organise regular check-up meetings to gauge individuals’ stress levels. And if you haven’t already, it’d be beneficial to introduce wider team welfare meetings that consider the needs of the workforce.
These are also considerations many employees want to see, with almost half of workers (46%) willing to share their personal health data with their employers to improve their wellbeing at work.
It’s not just about managing health on an individual level, either – you’ll need to consider the relationships between colleagues, and between line reports and managers. You’ll need to find opportunities for collaborative projects that help build team cohesion, and create spaces where employees can openly communicate and share their thoughts and experiences around company changes, no matter where they’re based.
These efforts will ultimately pay off, as HRDrive reported that businesses with strong team cohesion have 1.8x greater capacity for change than those with low team cohesion.
Gartner’s third focus point, creating a healthy environment, will mean changing how you lead everyday change. The most successful organisations adopt an open-source approach, actively engaging all employees at every step of change, rather than leading it from the top down. As well as increasing inclusion and trust, adopting an open-source approach can increase the probability of change success by as much as 24%.
Of course, making changes across these three focus areas doesn’t just involve one-time efforts. It’ll involve monitoring the health of your employees, teams, and working environment over time to identify the effects of your changes – and ensure you’re moving in the right direction.
Need help managing the change?
If you’d like to discuss how you can minimise disruption and mitigate employee fatigue, we have dedicated HR consultants with decades of experience across a wide range of sectors – just get in touch to see how we can help