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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Overcoming ‘pandemic fatigue’ among employees

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With a new COVID-19 variant surprising us like an unwelcomed guest that barges in on our holiday festivities, the foreseeable stricter protocols that will follow suit, and the still unclear schedule when vaccine will be available to the Filipino public, it seems like the pandemic’s “franchise” will be renewed next year. 

And “pandemic fatigue” will continue to plague many. 

The World Health Organization defines “pandemic fatigue” as a natural, expected reaction to sustained and unresolved adversity in people’s lives. Its symptoms include being demotivated to follow protective measures and behaviors, as well as feeling complacent, alienated, or hopeless. 

EXHAUSTED. Experts say ‘pandemic fatigue,’ whose symptoms include being demotivated and feeling complacent and hopeless, may impact the mental health of many employees worldwide.

Although pandemic fatigue gradually evolves over time, it may also be affected or triggered by a person’s cultural, social, structural, and legislative environment.

According to Dr. Carrianne Ewe, medical director of International SOS Philippines, an international health, security, management, and well-being solutions provider of companies and organizations, pandemic fatigue can affect one’s mental health, decreasing an individual’s motivation to practice precautionary health measures which may lead to increased risky behaviors. 

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Dr. Ewe highlighted the impact of pandemic fatigue on mental health of many employees worldwide. 

“Supporting the workforce’s mental health and well-being has been a key concern for many employers in addition to the response to this public health crisis. It is widely acknowledged that an employee’s job performance and productivity can be severely affected by health issues and impact an organizations’ business resilience,” said Dr. Ewe.

Addressing the issue

Occupational psychologist Dr. Rachael Lewis from Birkbeck University in London observed that while many countries have passed the peak of the pandemic, people have not recovered from the pain and hardship of the whole experience. 

In the Philippines, employees had to adapt quickly to a new environment, shifting to work from home where communications and logistics infrastructure are not always conducive to productivity. Those who reported to work had to navigate a very limited transportation network at exorbitant prices, further adding to the stress of the situation. 

In the Philippines, workers had to adapt quickly to a new environment, shifting to work from home where communications and logistic infrastructure are not always conducive to productivity and may further add to the stress of the situation.

The Philippine National Center for Mental Health revealed a significant increase in monthly hotline calls regarding depression. Numbers rose from 80 calls pre-lockdown to nearly 400 calls according to the WHO.

Many Filipino workers have become more anxious about losing their jobs due to layoffs, pay cuts, and closure of businesses, while employers have had to step up efforts in an unprecedented manner to support the workforce.

Building workforce resilience

Dr. Ewe stressed that organizations need to build a holistic workforce resilience program where an employee’s health, safety, and well-being are prioritized. 

“International SOS has been working closely with clients throughout the year, from the Taal Volcano eruption to the current COVID-19 pandemic. We have provided holistic workforce resilience solutions with tailored advice for the safe return to operations, navigation of the complex COVID-19 testing environment, and mental health and wellness programs,” said Dr. Ewe.

International SOS has developed a range of tools like its COVID-19 website, the International SOS Assistance App that provides clients round-the-clock health and security situational updates in each country, and webinars on practical measures and organizational best practices to tackle the ever-evolving challenges in this pandemic. Steph Llarena

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