Blue Monday in lockdown: Are your employees overworked?

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Sadly, Blue Monday is here. But in 2021, not only are we having to tackle the January blues, there’s also the matter of being in the middle of a  global pandemic. 

Almost a year in, employers and employees are still trying to make adjustments and find the best way to work efficiently during these exceptional circumstances.  And, it seems many are feeling the effects of burnout, with a recent report1 revealing employees are working almost six extra hours a week during the pandemic, which equates to 41 days a year.   

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to do everything possible to keep up your employee’s morale at work, and most importantly, ensure they aren’t overworked. Nikki Thorpe, People Operations Manager at the workforce management platform, Planday, provides some expert tips on how to do just that: 


Acknowledge your team’s resilience

“Now that we are almost a year into lockdowns and working from home, the best way to support your team has shifted from people’s immediate needs to an acknowledgement that your team has persevered and is resilient despite it all.

“It’s been such a hard slog to adapt to this working situation for so long. As a leader or manager, showing the shared understanding of these difficulties, of how the team has continued to be productive despite the challenges of 2020 and the first few months of 2021, is vital as the initial adrenaline has worn off.

“We’re all exhausted but it’s also important to stop and acknowledge how far we’ve come.”


Keep a structure

“We’re naturally creatures of habit, and with the longer-term changes to our daily routine, it’s something that is important right now. 

“Encourage staff to be open and transparent when it comes to what’s on their task list for the day,  and share it with other employees – perhaps on Slack or instant messenger. This will help keep focus and normalise the process of having everyone work from home, and ensure all team members are aware of each other’s capacity.”                                   


Be flexible

“Everyone’s situation is different, meaning that some people experience more obstacles than others. This makes it even more important to maintain flexibility right now and show employees that you trust them.

“When it comes to planning shifts, we recommend creating schedules a month in advance to avoid any last minute changes, and leave employees feeling relaxed. It also gives them a window of opportunity to raise any issues they have with the shifts they’ve been allocated.” 


Show your vulnerabilities and be real

“There’s a real strength in leadership to showing your own vulnerabilities and being real with your team. By taking regular breaks, encouraging people to get out and see the sun or even making sure that you switch off after hours, is an important example to set. It will help your team build the psychological safety net to know that doing the same is encouraged.

“Think about a walk and talk for your one on ones and consider how teams can use meeting time to get active or even get outside for a while and get some fresh air.

“Showing that you are comfortable expressing these vulnerabilities and challenges will help your team do the same.”


Use shared experiences to help keep your team motivated

“Team quizzes and after-work drinks are a good start, but it’s also good to think outside the box to help keep your team motivated and engaged right now.

“Whether it’s a shared experience like a virtual yoga session on a Monday morning for those who are interested or cooking something together as a team online, there are a range of ways to encourage people to relax and unwind – and bring your team closer together – when all the days can feel the same.”