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As a result of the pandemic, people are feeling frustrated and exhausted to the point of being ineffective

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kim DanielsThe past several years have exhausted many of us. Our emotional and physical limits have been pushed to a place we weren't sure we could survive. We have seen it in all ages as kids struggled with at-home learning, those of us in the workplace juggled understanding everchanging mandates and policies, and those in the later years of life often found themselves secluded at home. The effects of COVID did not discriminate who they affected and seem to have caused a strain on those in all geographic and demographic categories.

In our community, we are now seeing our local establishments open to the public and doing the best they can to "return to normal." But on the other side of re-opening businesses are employers dealing with staffing shortages, workers out for quarantine or sick leave, and for those employees who are showing up, they are often tasked with working extra to make up for the shortfall as we all cope with the pandemic.

The real and unfortunate result of this situation is that people are feeling frustrated and exhausted to the point of being ineffective. As we see consumer demand increase, we also see a rise in employee burnout. Those working have put off vacations and find themselves putting in more hours. And just like it is with a gas tank, the more it is used, the weaker it gets until it eventually has no fuel left to operate. When we start to see employee burnout, there is a decrease in workplace efficiency, and an even worse side effect is the susceptibility for illness. This can lead to more time off, turnover and the snowball effect of less people, and more work within a business or industry.

How can we remedy this situation, especially during a time when there are staff shortages, and no extra bodies to fill vacant positions or take on an already heavy workload? It takes both the effort of you and your employer to help find a healthy balance and encourage the importance of self-care. While it is natural for us to take care of others first, we often do it to the detriment of our own well-being. But for us to be the most productive, we must take care of ourselves, and employers should be willing to encourage self-care within the workplace.

Even if your company doesn't have an established program, here are some ways to encourage self-care:

Lead by example. If you own or manage a business or a team, take your breaks, vacations and show your employees it's perfectly acceptable and encouraged to take some time away from the grind.

Give praise and gratitude. We often think of how much others are doing for us, but do we say it to them? Appreciate those who show up and give effort. Encouragement is always received well and can lift the spirts of both employees and employers.

Take walking meetings. Get outside and get some fresh air. And while you are at it, you are getting exercise.

Provide flex time. Do you have employees who arrive early or leave late on certain days to get the job done? Compensate those extra hours worked by giving your staff an afternoon or morning off at a later date.

Revamp employee benefits. Benefits are often seen as a perk that keeps employees. Consider offering benefits that help relieve tension and stress. Consider offering reimbursement for a massage, yoga class, gym membership, etc. Engage your employees in brainstorming what benefits they think would be most beneficial to the team.

Encouraging self-care shouldn't be seen as a temporary goal, but a mindset for all those in the workplace. While it may have taken a pandemic for us to bring the idea of "taking care of you" to the forefront, the benefit is that it is being addressed at a higher rate than before and more and more businesses are working at making employee health and happiness a priority. And the results are lower turnover rate and increased employee performance.

The work will always be waiting, but it's best handled when you and your staff are fully charged. Take time to take care of yourself and encourage your staff to do the same. Afterall, you can't fill the tanks of others if your own is empty.


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