Advice for Pandemic-Fatigued Managers

Mitchell_fatigued managers May 24, 2021 By: Barbara Mitchell

COVID-19 may be waning, but it’s leaving behind a throng of exhausted managers and teams. The advice from the early months of the crisis still holds: Don’t stick with old ways of working that aren’t effective anymore, and make time for self-care.

Q: I’ve been talking with a lot of the other managers in my organization about how we are feeling a distinct lack of energy and drive after the difficult year we’ve experienced. We don’t want to let our exhaustion affect our ability to manage our teams, especially as we go back to the office and we’ll be together in person again. Do you have any suggestions for how we can find new energy?

A: I am hearing this from a lot of managers. Leading teams through the pandemic has proven extremely difficult in many ways—especially since we’ve not been through anything like this before, and we still don’t know all of the long-term implications of the crisis for our organizations.

According to Dan Cable, a professor of organizational behavior at the London Business School, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal, we get our motivation when we “learn, experience, experiment, and explore.” He adds that it also comes when we express ourselves in creative ways, when we’re challenged, and when we find purpose and meaning in our work.

Well, for many professionals, that’s not been happening so much lately. Maybe the problem is that most of us have been trying to work the same way we’ve always worked but hoping for different results, and it’s exhausting.

A practical exercise to do is to look at how you are prioritizing your work. Are you attempting to accomplish tasks in same way you did when you were in the office, but your team is remote and you’ve lost a lot of your ability to collaborate? This loss affects your productivity and adds pressure to your already hectic pace.

Take some time to rethink your work processes and priorities. Think about changes that will make sense not only for today but also for the long term, post-pandemic.

How could you change this? Is there technology you could use? Can you set aside a few projects until your team is back in the office? Take some time to rethink your work processes and priorities, and see what changes you might make that would lessen the pressures you’re all experiencing. Think about changes that will make sense not only for today but also for the long term, as we emerge from pandemic.

And then there’s you: How are taking care of yourself? Are you taking time off to recharge? Are you finding ways to turn off your work at the end of the day? Remember, your staff is watching how you handle stress. You want them to stay healthy and engaged in their work, so you need to set a good example. Don’t expect your staff to respond to emails at midnight—in fact, don’t send emails after normal working hours at all.

You know what to do without my advice: exercise, eat right, get a good night’s sleep, get away from work when you can, and be kind to yourself. If what you need from me is permission to take care of yourself, you’ve got it—because if you don’t, nothing else you do is going to matter.

Barbara Mitchell

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer? Send it to